In an epic novel characterized by a graceful and captivating narrative style that blends reality and fantasy, Isabel Allende returns to shine through the life of Violetta, the heroine of her novel, to which she gave her name as the title, between two pandemics to tell. However, in her novel “Violetta” she did not deviate from the taste of her most famous novel “House of the Spirits” nor from the echoes of her novel “Paula”. Rather, the new novel seemed to be a mixture of the two novels. The repercussions of the coup against her uncle, Salvador Allende, as well as the death of her daughter from cancer, through letters dedicated by the novel’s heroine, Violetta, to her grandson of her daughter Niepes, in which she tells of the life she lived since then. she was born in 1920 during the Spanish flu and ended with the Corona pandemic in 2020, the year of her death.
Violetta begins with a letter from Violetta to her grandson Camilo to record the memories of her life before they are wasted by oblivion, as a kind of testimony of “my life that deserves to be told, not for my virtues , but for my sins, many of which you do not suspect.” .The narrative text that crosses between the two pandemics is not a text of Violetta’s autobiography, although it constitutes a kind of leverage that Isabel Allende uses to wrangle over major events, which did not begin with the influenza pandemic at all and did not end with the Corona pandemic, rather it forms a narrative epic more like a mix of personal events linked to, affected by and influenced by political and natural unrest.
Perhaps the death of her real daughter still hangs over her novel, and she singled out a main loan character, Neybes, for this death, perhaps to be able to express this loss in her real life, as if this expression in the novel “Paula” did not have enough of her, because at the moment of her daughter’s death by her lover Julian, the uniqueness of Isabel Allende is a heartbreaking clip when Violetta experiences the tragic death of her daughter after the birth of her grandson Camilo. .
On the other hand, her son of Julian Juan Martín led a confused life in which she moved between communism and the struggle against the tyranny of the regime in order to escape it, soon adopting the theological and missionary life in Africa and immigrating to Norway where he settled down to live a life free of excitement, after having lived a life of ostracism. From his father for refusing to conform to his immoral and reckless way of life. While Violetta settled with Harald Fisk, a retired Norwegian diplomat, as a husband, he gave her the assurance she missed with her first husband, Fabian, and with her lover Julian, and Roy Cooper, with whom she ‘ had an ambiguous relationship, as a detective providing services to the mafia and the corrupt. But the irony is that he supported her against the will of her lover, Julian, to protect her daughter and sympathize with her, even though it was Julian who hired him to find his daughter. Another irony is when Roy Cooper gave his grandson his father’s name so that Violetta could issue official documents to him that would help her get him out of the United States after his mother’s death. Furry Cooper is the ambiguous and incomprehensible character in which good and evil coexist, and at the same time includes a great tenderness that hides behind a mask of cruelty and coldness that only those who knead life can see, with its sweetness, its bitterness, and its cracks.
Violetta told honestly about the paradoxes she lived so that her grandson would remember her with all his ups and downs, good and bad, to understand life without prejudice. Here, Isabel Allende seems to have collected all the misdeeds and paths of a Violetta woman to understand what it means to be a woman.
Isabel Allende certainly did not try to emulate the atmosphere of García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, although many critics have accused her of doing so since her novel, House of Spirits. This similarity is due to the similar environment that embraced these events and the need for four generations of the “del Paye” family, like the Macondo family, to describe the events of a hundred years that it shares with Violetta’s novel as ” House of Spirits” to tell. ”, in covering a historical stage in the life of countries South America in terms of political, social and economic unrest, in its interaction with the life of a family, its tragedies are linked to those events. But what is closer to the time is the attempt to record the economic, humanitarian and political repercussions of the Corona pandemic by borrowing the Spanish flu pandemic and its consequences on the world, and especially on the living reality of Chile, where the events of the novel take place.
It was as if the recovery of the tragedies that followed the Spanish flu was Isabel Allende’s way of expressing the tragedies of the time of Corona and its consequences, in what is similar to the approach to the historical repetition of intertwined crises which accompanied the two pandemics, to root. The tyranny of the successive regimes that spoiled life in all its meanings did not belong to either of the two pandemics, even if they played a role in making this tyranny worse in the face of a virus that claimed lives of millions. We see it in the character of her lover, father, and her two children, Julian, the reckless lecher, who brings her together with a passion beyond her control, after living a life free of passion and love with her husband Fabian lived After the death of her daughter, Violeta, Violeta becomes sure of his involvement in the genocide that killed dozens of victims amid his involvement with the CIA, the permanent supporter of the tyrannical regime in Chile. To atone for the sins of her relationship with him and her silence in dragging their daughter into the quagmire of loss, she planned to take revenge on him together with his mistress, after it was proven to the latter that he was openly cheating with a new lover, to whom he also makes marriage vows in vain. Julien, who took advantage of his relationship with Violetta to cooperate in the management of his business, and repeated the same thing with his second and then third lover, did not learn from the death of his daughter, despite his great pain for her loss and the cause of this loss.
violence and love
Although she used Julien as a symbol of patriarchal opportunism and moral corruption in every sense, Julien was also a symbol of male physical violence against women in Chile, and around the world. Violence disguised as love. In time, violence realizes its devastating effects on her life and the lives of her two illegitimate sons, Julian, as she suppresses herself or colludes in the face of an uncontrollable sexual passion. A passion that cost her a lifetime. Against the backdrop of this realization, Violetta founds an association for victims of domestic violence, through which she seeks to withdraw the rights of the women whose nanny Mays Taylor lived for her, especially the right to vote for women, similar to her homosexual mistress, Teresa. Despite this, Violetta does not deny the great credit of her older brother, Jose Antonio, who took control of the family after his father’s suicide. It was he who also walked rough paths until he and Violetta managed to restore a life of wealth, but in honorable ways, unlike their father. He helped her a lot to cope with the changes in her life and the challenges she faced, despite his masculinity, which wasn’t bad. She helped him establish his business and created a number of successful businesses that contributed to portraying a moderate image of a man when he decided to be flexible and pragmatic in his relationship with women. We see this in the presence of a number of men in her life that cannot be talked about in a hurry. They also contributed to helping her overcome a number of problems, even though their affiliations differed and their personalities were incredibly diverse. Even readers can hardly believe that there are so many men in her life, and so diverse and different.
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In all her novels, Isabel Allende worked on several themes that were interconnected to form a narrative text in which she did not hide existential concerns, which sparked her interest and formed the background basis for her fictional art, namely: social justice in the face of tyranny in the political regimes that have successively ruled Latin American countries. Also the feminist vision of a world groaning under the pressure of masculinity, the source of tyranny in all its manifestations. Regarding the environment and natural disasters, she was always present in her novels, including “Violetta”. These interconnected narrative themes shaped the human and existential identity of Isabel Allende throughout her literary, media and political career.
It remains that the novel “Violetta” came as an intense juice of her literary production and her life as a woman characterized by a captivating magical realism, which in my opinion surpassed the great Latin novelists. Mark Gamal’s translation of the novel contributed to highlight its aesthetics, whether in its original elegance or exquisite expressions, to enrich with this translation the original text, with the usual honesty that characterizes his translations.
It also remains to admit that Isabel Allende surpassed herself in the novel “Violetta” by the smoothness of the narration, for the theme of the life of a woman whose few joys and great problems collided over a century,’ a life she lived amidst paradoxes that the mind cannot control in one text. It is a life similar to the lives of millions of women who still live the same fate and walk on bumpy paths, in which their choices are open to every possibility.