Isabel Allende: 2010 National Book Festival

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington DC. >>Good morning and
happy anniversary. This is the 10th year. [ Applause ]>>The 10th year of the National
Book Festival and it is people like you, book lovers and people who
love to come and meet authors who– and aren’t afraid to show it, who make this great
institution possible. Before we begin, I
want to inform you that the pavilion’s presentations
are being filmed for the Library of Congress, for the website
and for their archives. So, if you step up
and ask a question, you are going down in history. I want you to be aware
of that [laughter]. And please don’t sit
on the camera risers and turn off your cellphones
if you would. Thank you. I am Marie Arana. I am a writer at large for The
Washington Post and I’m here to introduce your host,
Dr. James Billington who has been the United
States Librarian of Congress for 23 marvelously productive years. [ Applause ]>>He is only the 13th
person to hold the position since the library was
established 210 years ago. Think about that. There have been 43 presidents
from John Adams to Barrack Obama but there have only
been 13 librarians of Congress during that time. Dr. Billington’s accomplishments
are legend and legendary. Allow me to mention a few. He is the force behind the Librarian
National Digital Library Program which makes available
online, millions and millions of publications from the
Library of Congress as well as from other libraries and research
institutions around the globe. He created the James Madison
Council whose members helped govern and shape the important
work that the library does. He is the founder of the John W.
Kluge Center, a haven for scholars around the world who
produce a wider array of ground-breaking scholarship. He’s established unprecedented
exchange programs with Russia which is in fact, his
personal field of scholarship. But in truth, he’s built bridges
with regions all around the world. Perhaps, most important at least
today on the 10th anniversary of this magnificent
living institution, Dr. Billington is the mastermind
behind the National Book Festival along with Laura Bush and this
festival as you well know, is one the great public
celebrations of books and reading in this country. It’s a great honor to
introduce a national treasure, the director of the National Book
Festival and the US Librarian of Congress, Dr. James Billington. [ Applause ]>>Thank you very much
Marie and welcome. Welcome to you all for this 10th
Annual National Book Festival for our opening ceremonies and
this is a milestone anniversary of what we have been calling a
decade of words and wonder dedicated to the celebration of books,
reading to literacy and libraries, and above all, to the wonderful
experience of one author speaking to one individual,
individuals of all ages. We thank you for being here and let
me just say a word of special thanks to Marie Arana who does such a wonderful special
job of introducing– [ Applause ]>>Supported by our honorary chairs,
President Obama and Michelle Obama and organized by the
library, the wonderful staff, all these shirts you see
with National Book Festival, these are Library of Congress
volunteers of their own time. They’re not getting overtime for
this but they want to be here because this is a corporate
expression of your library, The National Library, a
commitment to all of these and libraries everywhere. As we bring up the curtain. [ Applause ]>. As we bring up the curtain
on this very happy occasion, we realize that there will be you
adults here in this very audience and throughout the day
who have virtually grown up with the National Books Festival. The offerings here are so varied. Our authors so diverse and skilled
that it’s possible to come back year after a year, not only not
have the same experience twice but to find some new forum
of enrichment as well as fun because this is an
enjoyable festive atmosphere. It’s a festival not a grim
duty and it’s just great to see you all here on a clear day. We’ve welcomed so far over the
decade about a million book lovers of all ages to the National
Book Festival and this year, the festival has a
particularly international flavor. On our stages today, we have
several authors from variety of nations who’ve won prestigious
international awards including the Noble Prize for literature, we
welcome them all and we await to hear their stories
with great interest. Everybody loves a good
story, stories unify people, theories tend to divide them. America’s a pretty great
story composed of a lot of individual stories and our
authors today span the globe as well as our own nation. So, it’s a distinct privilege
to introduce our opening author, Isabel Allende who is
known throughout the world, is a best selling Chilean-American
writer, born in Lima where her father
was a Chilean Ambassador. Her uncle is Chilean
President, Salvador Allende, who was assassinated in
a military coup in 1973. Believing it unsafe to remain in
Chile, under those conditions, Isabel and her husband and two
children fled to Venezuela. While in exile, she wrote her first
novel, The House of the Spirits, which was made into a film in 1994. Her works weave wonderful elements
of that special quality of writers in our neighbors to the South. In this hemisphere,
the magical-realism which she’s helped bring to us
and which often depicts women and their struggles with
particular sensitivity. She has written many
novels and other works, such as plays and children’s
stories. Her most recent novel is The Island
Beneath the Sea, Harper Collins. Following this morning’s
presentation, she will receive this year’s Library of Congress National Book Festival
Creative Achievement Award. Sorry, that’s a lot of words. [ Applause ]>>That’s a lot of words but
she has such a universal range and such wonderful sense of humor
and humanity that we wouldn’t work on reducing the name of that
prize in her honor to an acronym. Ladies and gentlemen, Isabel Allende
who will be interviewed this morning by author and Washington
Post writer Marie Arana and then she will be
followed by Dr. Deanna Marcum, the head of this year’s Library of
Congress Team for the Book Festival who will present this special
non-acronym even if a little long in truth but short in wonderful
expression of direct feeling of gratitude for her giving
this international flavor. She is an American citizen who
we’re very proud of and proud to give this award to and
once again, welcome to you all and welcome to your families,
your friends, and everyone else that can help make this
a really festive evening. Ladies and gentlemen, now, Marie– and no, one last word
[audience laughter]. This is not just the
10th anniversary of what we’ve already
done but we have, thanks to a very special
donor the assurance of another five years
not just next year. [ Applause ]>>So. So, please give a
special round of applause to our special donor, a great
friend of things in this city that are important to the country
as a whole, David Robinson. Please take a bow, sir. [ Applause ]>>And now, that wonderful and amazing spirit Marie
Arana and Isabel Allende. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Is this thing working?>>Oh good. Okay. Well, Isabel Allende is
obviously very well known to you. And she has been beloved to you. She’s been translated into 30
languages, sold 60 million copies of her books around the world.>>Where is the money? [ Laughter ]>>She is read everywhere
from Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo and what people don’t know is
what you are going to discover as I’ve discovered over these
15 years of knowing Isabel is that she is apart from being
this unbelievable work horse who works 10 hours a day and gets
up at 6:15, works 10 hours a day. Starts every book on
January 8th [laughter]. Works round the clock. Apart from that, she is a remarkably
warm wonderful human being and I am so glad to have her here. Thank you for coming to the
festival right at the top.>>Thank you. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Okay. Let’s start
with present history. The Island Beneath the Sea. You’ve written a very stirring
book about Haitian woman, a slave mulatto, who survives the
violent Haitian revolution barely and comes to New Orleans at the
turn of the century, 19th century. Clearly, you chose the subject
before Haitian earthquake happened possibly before hurricane Katrina. What led you to it? Tell us about that.>>Well actually, I wasn’t
planning to write about a slave. I was planning to write
about New Orleans, the city that is just
fascinating, very different from all the other
cities in this country. And probably unique in the world
and much of its flavor comes from 10,000 French white colonizers that escaped the slave revolt
in what is today, Haiti. And they went to New Orleans
where they bought land and they established themselves. They came with their
white families of course but they also brought some
domestic slaves that they trusted. Slavery was not abolished
at that time in the United States but trade was. So, you couldn’t bring slaves
from abroad but the pirates of the Caribbean were
selling slaves. So, this input of Africans into
the country was very important in this city and there was a
large population of free people, of color with their own
culture, with their cuisine, with their music, and that’s what
has given that city its flavor.>>Now it’s a very intriguing
title which I’m not sure. I’ve read the book
but I don’t remember that you actually really explicitly
explained the island beneath the sea. Tell us about that. That’s a marvelous lyrical title?>>Well, the slaves that we’re
kidnapped and sold in Africa came from different places in Africa. They had different
religions, different languages, and different ethnicities. They we’re not homogenous
at all and one of the things that the slave traders
did was separate people from the same village
or the same family because when people are
together, they are empowered and so they would separate
them and sell them separately. However, in Haiti, they developed
a sort of bastardized French mixed with African words that became
Creole, the language they spoke. They communicated with
the drums and they had in common a spiritual
belief that we call voodoo. And it is a mixture of, there
were many Muslims also that came as slaves and animists
and different religions and they created this religion
that was extraordinary. They believed in one god only. You cannot reach that god. It’s too far away but
there are the loas who– who are like the saints
in the Catholic Church and the loas have different
functions in the spiritual world. There’s one for day,
one for love, et cetera. And during the ceremonies in trance,
the practitioner would be mounted by the Loa and become the
Loa and they would have– these people who had no power,
no control of their lives at all. They would have the
experience of the divine. The experience and the
power of the divine and that empowerment allowed them
to face the troops of Napoleon which where the best trained
troops in Europe and defeat them. They believed that for every
man or woman that was fighting, 10,000 souls had risen from
the island beneath the sea to fight with them. The island beneath the sea
was paradise, [inaudible], the place where your
soul went when you died and so that’s the title of the book.>>Now, a few people realize
as Isabel so clearly describes in this book the incredibly
bloody revolution at the Haitian revolution was. It was a roiling time. Everything was burned to the
ground and for a long time, Haiti was ignored by the world. This is a really quite amazing
bit of history which affected of course Louisiana and New
Orleans because in the way that Cubans have created and defined
Miami, the French from Haiti, the white overlords and the
black slaves define Louisiana. Tell us about your
research for this. How did that started? How did you conduct it?>>Well, first, I want to say
that this is a book about a slave and the subject of slavery is of
course very important in the book but it’s really a human story. It is not awful to read. It’s actually, I think,
very entertaining so please buy it [laughter]. Yeah. What was the
question [laughter]?>>How did you research
this incredibly entertaining novel [laughter]?>>Well, plagiarizing of course because that’s what you
do when you research. First, you read the history books
but the history books are written by the white men and they’re
always written by the winners. You never hear the voices
of the people of color, the losers, the victims, the women. You never know how people really
lived and so then there is, correspondence, memoirs, the libraries who can provide
wonderful stuff of course and the rest also is a
little bit of imagination because once you have the time and the place researched
then you write about people. It’s their stories and
people are the same. We tend to think that people who had
lived before us were simple minded. No they didn’t have the technology
maybe but they were just as complex and if you read any of the letters
or the documents at that time, even written by slaves
like [inaudible]. They’re extraordinary
pieces of literature. People had really a very
sophisticated way of writing and thinking and living and so
just imagining how they would behave today. I can write about what happened
then because people are the same. We all feel the same
and we felt the same and we felt the same 200 years ago.>>There’s nobody who makes
that point I think better than Isabel Allende in
her historical novels. She has written quite a few. Since the House of the Spirits, it’s
been 28 years since that book and–>>Oh my God, am I old [laughter]?>>No. You’ve written 16 books. All of them–>>No 18.>>I’m sorry.>>18 books, 17 since
that first one and boy, I’ve gotta be really sharp
I’m coming [inaudible]. And every single one of
those books was different. It seems to me from Eva Luna right
through to Paula, Ines of My Soul to This Island Beneath the Sea. Each one is very, very different. What makes you want to experiment
as you do because every single book to me is a different experience,
another Isabel Allende is.>>Well, I wish one
could do the same with husbands, you know [laughter]. Keep experiencing new husbands
that would be wonderful but, so I live in my books all the stuff
that I can’t live in my real life. Once I was in a meeting
with librarians. It was a huge conference
of librarians. It was mainly middle aged women
with glasses and a little overweight and one person in the audience
said, the first question was, are the sex scenes in your books
from real experience [laughter] and I looked at the audience
and realized I couldn’t lie so I said I wish [laughter].>>It’s just research
and imagination. So it’s the same for the
subject of the books. I don’t know why. Every story is like a seed inside
and some seeds start to grow and grow and I think that it’s
always related with something that is really important for me. It’s either a cause or
an idea or an experience that has a very personal
meaning and then I start writing without a script and
the story unfolds and then I don’t know
why I’m writing about it. Why would I write about
an African slave? Culturally, I’m not close at all. Physically, she’s completely
different from me. Why would I write about that? And I think that it has to
do with empowerment of women and the obsession that I
have always had with freedom and justice not freedom
in the– can you hear me? Not freedom in the, you know,
the big word, internal freedom, the way that you can have choices
because freedom is about choices and that has always been
really important for me and the slaves have none so in this
case, why would I write about this, because it’s an extreme case of
what has always been my obsession and in all my books, you
would find marginal people who are not sheltered by the big
umbrella of their establishment, people who have to overcome huge
obstacles to have a destiny at life. I’m not interested in suburban
middle class white guys [laughter]. I couldn’t write a novel about
Wall Street, about Washington. I couldn’t. I can write about people who are
outside who are in the margins of the society for
different reasons, ethnicity or sometimes a physical
disability or a gender option. Things like that. That’s what interests me most.>>You know, you’re making me–
you’re reminding me that last year on this very stage, John Irving
was talking and of course, he has written a lot of books
too and he said in the process of his presentation that
every single one of the books that he had written actually was
part of one big book and it seems to me that that’s what
you’re saying. You have created one major opus
really of the women who struggles against extraordinary odds and
extraordinary adversity and somehow through love and through
perseverance wins. Is that true?>>In a way, it’s true but I’ve also
written a book about a man that goes through the same circumstances. Actually, in 1987, I was
passing by California. I was living in Venezuela
then and I met a guy. He was introduced to me as
the last heterosexual bachelor in San Francisco [laughter]. And he started telling
me his life and I said– he said that he wanted to
write his life and I said, why don’t you let me do it? I would probably do a
better job and so we spent– then I went to bed with
him of course [laughter] because that’s how you
get the stories, you know. Very intimately and I
ended up marrying him because I needed a list an
American visa [laughter]. I would be married for 23 years
and that’s the story of a man and it’s told in the voice of a man. So it’s not always a woman and
then I have a trilogy for kids, not for kids, for young
adults, that is also told not from the point of view for woman.>>I also want to ask you about
your family history which is such a big part of
your persona in a way. I think a lot of people have
it wrong I found out by going into the internet and seeing that
a lot of people actually believe that you we’re the daughter
of Salvador Allende. You we’re actually the daughter
of a cousin of Salvador Allende but that September 11 which greatly
precedes many, many years ago. It was 1973 the September 11
that happened ten years ago. It was dramatically
imprinted on your life and was in many ways I think perhaps the
impetus because it booted you out of your own country and made you
an exile for the rest of your life. Could you tell us a
little bit about that sort of the political aspect
of your background?>>Well, I was related
to Salvador Allende. He has a daughter called Isabel
Allende who is very political and so when she is asked to sign my
books, she does [laughter]. And when I am told that I was
marching with the communist in Rome, I said yeah, yeah, I was [laughter]. So why are you going
to explain so much. She is taller, she has blue eyes and
on September 11th, a Tuesday also at the same time of the
September 11th here. In 1973, we had a military coup which was a terrorist attack
against the democracy. The strongest and longest
democracy in Latin America in Chile and it was back by the CIA
by the way and that gave-and that started a dictatorship
that lasted almost 17 years. Many people died. Many people disappeared. Many people were tortured and many
people left the country either because they were expelled
and they became exiles or they chose to leave. I chose to live. I couldn’t live in terror in my
own country and I went and lived as a political refugee in Venezuela
for 13 years until I met that guy in San Francisco [laughter]. So, my life has always been as
a foreigner and I’ve always felt that I am not under the big
umbrella of the establishment. I, of course now, I’m legal
by the way [laughter]. But, I still feel like a foreigner. I will always look different, always
have an accent and then I go back to Chile and after a couple of
weeks, I feel foreign there too because I’ve changed and the country
has changed and it’s hard sometimes. >>Now, I mentioned before the
fact that you begin every book on January 8, is this
your sort of rigorous side or is this your superstitious side?>>It is both. I wrote the house of–
I started the House of The Spirits, my first novel. I sent a letter to my
grandfather on January 8, 1991 and it was a very lucky book. This very seldom happens
that a first novel from a totally unknown person
hits the market and in Europe, in less than 3 months, it had been
bought by almost every language in Europe and it became a
huge success immediately. That paved the way for all my
other books which are not as good as the first by the way
[laughter] and so I thought, well, this is a lucky book. I will start my second book
on a lucky day, January 8th. And then, I did the same
thing for 3 or 4 books and then it became a matter of
discipline because my life was very, very complicated and if I don’t
save a few months of the year without traveling and without any
social activity just lock myself away to write, I won’t
be able to do it. So now, it’s discipline
and superstition. And by the way, it’s Elvis
Presley’s birthday [laughter] which is also a lucky thing. [ Laughter ]>>Now, you’ve been called the most
successful Latin-American female author in the world.>>Author. Not female [laughter].>>Female author in your own. [ Laughter ]>>Why do we have to
make the difference? [ Applause ]>>That was going to
be my question to you. You are the distinction is
really ridiculous, right? I mean, in fact, Isabel
Allende is, well I know this because I checked it out, sells
more today in contemporary life than Cervantes, then Garcia
Marquez, then Carlos Fuentes. The numbers are there. Now, that distinction was
exactly what I wanted to ask. How do you look on the female role
of authors and how and what sort of struggle do you have to make that male authors perhaps
don’t have to make?>>Well, any woman has to
be twice as good as any man to get half the recognition
and respect [applause]. Fortunately, that is not difficult. [ Laughter ]>>So [laughs]. So, as a writer, I’m always
called a narrator, a story teller, a female writer, when
you add an adjective to the word literature,
you diminish it. The moment you say
African-American literature or Latin-American literature
or female literature or young-adult literature,
it’s less. When it’s just literature, it’s
white males that are writing. So, I don’t like the distinction. I think that I use the same
raw material, words and ideas than any man and I’d write
books that are just as good. So, I don’t want to be separated. Why would I separate myself? [ Applause ]>>I love that. [ Applause ]>>Now, eventually, we’re going to
get to questions from the audience which is really the important part
or this presentation but I had such fun a few years ago doing
the Proust questionnaire. Do you know about Proust
questionnaire?>>Oh, don’t do that to me. Please.>>Oh. I’m gonna do it [laughs].>>Please.>>The Proust questionnaire
which is very, very silly and fun and all your answers were wonderful.>>You want me to remember them.>>No, no. I want [simultaneous talking]–>>I’m asking you different
questions this time. So here we go this is
Proust Questionnaire. What is your favorite
word in any language?>>Sex [applause]. It’s universal you know,
same with every language.>>What is the word
you absolutely hate?>>Violence. Because of what it means.>>I’m afraid to ask
you the next question because I think the answers
gonna be the same as the first. What turns you on?>>Chocolate [applause] ha! And another thing if
someone murmurs in my ear. You know the only way that
women listen is when you whisper in their ear and the
G-spot is here [applause]. That turns me on.>>Ayayay. What is your idea of hell?>>Being in a prison, in a cell, in
a closed place where I can’t escape and I have no power over my life.>>That sounds like a writer’s desk.>>No, because in the writer’s desk
you fly, you are with the character, you are the characters,
you are in the story. Oh there is– it’s
incredible freedom. [ Applause ]>>What is your favorite
hero or heroine in fiction?>>There are many but I love Zorro. You know why I love Zorro? Because Zorro is an action hero that has no special powers he’s
just a guy, a young guy athletic, humorous, not violent who humiliates
the enemy but doesn’t kill and who just puts on a mask
and fights for justice. We can all do that, we
can all put on a mask or not and fight for justice. We don’t need any special powers
and I love the fact that he is, what do we call him in
Spanish leviano de sangre with a light blood. I mean he is funny, he is athletic,
he is young, he is just wonderful. The lightness of being.>>Marvelous. Now who is your favorite
hero or heroine in real life?>>Actually my mother. [ Applause ]>>No comment after that absolutely and we would all probably
say the same. What is the quality you
most admire in a writer?>>The capacity to grab
the reader by the neck and hold the reader
to the last page. As a reader I don’t want to be
bored, so I can take anything as long as you keep me interested. I love the fact that you– a page
competes with films, with fear, with music, with things that have
so much vibrancy and elements and technology and it’s just a flat
page with little fly things there and you get hooked you go in there
and you become part of the story. A writer that can do
that is a hero to me. [ Applause ]>>And she does that. What is the sound that
you most dread?>>Actually I think that I remember
very clearly the hawker hunters, the planes that bombed the palace
in Chile on September 11 and I fear that very much, the sound of war.>>Now if heaven exists and you finally make it
to heaven’s door, right. What would you like to
say when He greets you?>>Hi! Come in tell me a story. [ Applause ]>>Now we’re ready to take
your questions so please, there are two microphones
here and come up.>>Don’t be shy.>>Don’t be shy.>>So here’s my question. What’s your process during
the day, you know for writing, I mean do you have to write
over your garage or do you write in the morning or do you get
really creative at night. What’s your process
for writing everyday?>>I get up very early. I have a wonderful husband
who brings me coffee to bed and I think that’s just such a
wonderful luxury and very early I go to a little casita that I
have in the back of our garden where I keep my first editions,
dictionaries, maps, and the research that I have done for the book
and I just lock myself there and write all day until
Willie calls me for dinner. And so I don’t know what I’m going
to eat but he has set the table and he has food on the
table so that’s my day. It is not very interesting but
that’s the time when I’m writing. When I’m not writing then
I can be with the family and I travel and I do lots of stuff. But I have to research a lot so when I’m not writing
I’m reading for my work.>>Wonderful, thank you very much.>>What are you reading right now?>>What am I reading? Actually I am reading a book by
Azar Nafisi, a memoir of her family. This is what I started last night.>>High, this is not working?>>Yes, it’s working.>>Okay, I’ve been
following your career because I’m also a Latin
American woman and I’ve read all of your books and it’s wonderful
to be able to meet you today, I’m really honored to be here–>>Thank you.>>And I would like to know
what’s in the works now? What can we expect? What are we– I’ve always looked
forward to the next book so–>>Thank you.>>You can give us a hint.>>Well I’m going to take
a sabbatical next year and do nothing, nothing. But I already finished
another book just in case. And I still have to pay the bills and the book is a very different
book it’s a contemporary book. It happens in 2009 to a young
19-year-old American girl from California who gets in deep
trouble and then her grandmother who is Chilean sends her away,
sends her to a very remote island in the archipelago of
Chiloe in the south of Chile where life is very rural,
almost medieval and she has to change all these
technology and all the fuss and all the noise for
a time of silence. And what happens in her soul.>>Hi, I was wondering if you
have read Madison Smartt Bell’s books on–>>Yes–>>Haitian revolution and
how if they influenced–>>Yes, yeah. okay, Madison Smartt Bell has
written a lot about Haiti. He has a wonderful trilogy that
is fiction and he has biographies of Toussaint Louverture
that are extraordinary and of course I read
them and as I said when you research you
also read fiction. You don’t read only history books because other writers
have already researched and also they have contributed. So of course it influenced me and
of course I am very grateful to him and to other writers of
fiction that wrote about slavery and wrote about– because not only– I mean you can find all the
information in the history books but when you read fiction you’re
really getting into everyday life and that’s so interesting.>>Because also his
writing seems very bloody>>Wonderful but of course it’s very
bloody because Haiti at the time– I mean– it was called Saint
Domingue, slaves were expected to live in the plantations
between 4 and 6 years. They were exploited to death with the most horrible
bloody cruel punishments. So of course it’s a
very violent trilogy.>>Over here, please.>>I read the La casa de
los spiritus when I was 16 and it changed the direction of my
entire life it was an amazing book but one of the things that’s always
puzzled me is the relationships oftentimes were abusive but
the woman maintained this love for their husbands like remaining
in the home even after he hit her and knocked her teeth out,
she remained in the home, her spirit remains in the home
looking after him and loving him and as someone who is such a force for female empowerment I was
wondering the reasoning behind that?>>Yeah well if I would
write a book about a husband who hits his wife today
a contemporary story of course she would get out of
that relationship but at the time in the 1900s, 1930, 1940 women in Chile could not get
out of a relationship. There was no divorce an
there was no greater scandal than leaving your husband. And that’s what my mother
did actually, my mother and my father separated
and my mother was blamed for it although my father was to
be blamed so the story is placed at a time when women did not have an
outlet and I think that in the case of that couple in particular
he adored her, he was just a very angry man. And a very unhappy man
but he really adored her, so that the relationship
is much more complex than just a violent man
and a submissive wife. >>My students are reading And
of Clay Are We Created this week in Missouri and I would
just like to ask, what is the most difficult
part of the writing process?>>Of the writing process?>>Of the writing process.>>I don’t remember that
story did I write it?>>You did.>>I did. Oh, it must
have been a long time ago, and what’s the story about?>>It’s a love [inaudible] it’s the
girl that’s trapped in the basket–>>Oh, because it has another
name in Spanish, I’m sorry.>>That’s okay.>>I might– write in Spanish only, I can never remember the
titles in another language. That story is based on a real case.>>Yes.>>It’s the story of Omayra Sanchez,
a little girl that was trapped in a mudslide in Colombia and
she lived for three days trapped in the mud up to here and you could
see in every television in the world because they flew the
televisions and the press in you could see her dying for
three days and they could not fly in a pump to pump the
water and save her life. So that is a very dramatic
and awful story and I always have a photograph.>>In Katrina during Katrina
I thought of your story–>>Yes and what it takes to write a
story like that I was a journalist and so I’m aware of the stories
that are always floating in the air, the extraordinary stories
you get in a car and someone tells you the story
of her family and it’s nine kids and the father committed suicide
and there is another book, you know. You just find these
wonderful stories. Now which story you will write? It depends on the moment and it
depends on what you are feeling. In the case of Omayra
Sanchez again it’s a story of person who is trapped. Who has, who can’t escape. >>I am delighted to
meet you face to face.>>Thanks.>>Your books, most recently–>>Pull up the microphone
I can’t hear you.>>I’m sorry–>>These tall people, I hate them.>>I read both in Spanish
and in English and the three books
I’ve read most recently, by you are La isla bajo el mar,
El Zorro, and Ines del alma mia. I am fascinated by your
creation of characters who overcome amazing obstacles and
as you mentioned earlier are living on the margins of society. I want to zoom in on Zorro. How was it that you– what inspired
you to create a story of his youth?>>Yeah, Zorro was not my idea. I was one day in summer
of 2003 was it Willie? 2003 these people came to my
house and knocked at the door and I thought they were Mormon
missionaries so I was prepared for that but they were really the
owners of the copy write of Zorro. Zorro has owners. A family that owns the
rights and they came and they said we’ve done everything
with Zorro, we’ve done movies, TV series, mugs, costumes,
all kinds of stuff but we don’t have a
work of literature. Would you like to write
a book about Zorro? And I said, why me? And they said because I’ve
written historical novels, I’m Spanish originally, I mean
my– Spanish is my language, I live in California and I have
written stories for young adults and so they thought I would be the
perfect person to write the book. And I said well I don’t
write on commission. But then I thought of Antonio
Banderas in the movies [laughter] and I thought maybe I will
have a chance to meet him. So that’s why I wrote the book.>>Thank you. [Applause ]>>I just read And of
Clay last year for school and I got really interested
so I read Eva Luna but–>>I can’t hear you. You have to get closer
to the microphone.>>I just read And of Clay last
year for school because I had to and I got really interested in
your writing and so I read Eva Luna but I was just curious
because you said you do a lot of research what’s your
favorite genre specifically?>>What, what’s the
research for what?>>What’s your favorite genre
like because if you do a lot of research you’re doing on fiction
so– but what’s your favorite?>>Well I love to write
historical fiction because once you research the time
and the place half the book is done. You have a theater where you
will move the characters. And I love that kind of book. It’s– for me it’s easier. Of course the research
can take years for Island beneath
the sea it was 4 years in the meantime I write
a memoir but I love that part of my work, I really do.>>Okay, that’s all.>>I’m sorry we have just one–
time for one more question.>>Oh.>>Okay, the gentleman.>>The gentleman.>>The first man–>>Oh–>>That stands up an
applause for him. [ Applause ] [ Spanish ]>>Gracias–>>I hope that one day my Spanish
will be as good as your English.>>You need to marry a
Spanish woman [laughter].>>Ah.>>You learn language
in bed [laughter].>>Okay. I’ll be quick
let’s say it’s January 7 and if you aren’t finishing up a
book from the year before or is it or you are not taking a sabbatical
what is it are you thinking of ideas for the book you will
start the next day or by then you’ve already begun
the idea or whatever in your head.>>Well by January 7th I’m
a wreck because I think that I know what I’m going
to write but I don’t– I am not sure and it has
happened more than once that I sit with one idea and I end up writing
something totally different. The only thing I know is that
I will have my casita clean. I will have taken out everything
that is not related to the book that I am going to write and
I have all my research ready. I light candles I put fresh
flowers, I make time, you know. I procrastinate as much as
possible but then there is a moment when I have to sit down in front of
the computer and then I breathe in and breathe out and write
a sentence that comes from the womb not from the mind. And that first sentence usually
is like a door that opens into a dark space that is the
story that I still don’t know and I will go day by day, hour by
hour, word by word investigating in that darkness until I find
the characters and the story and it’s a very slow process. The first two or three weeks are
terrible because I am not sure of what I’m doing and I
have not found the voice. But once the voice comes, the voice from the island beneath the sea
is the voice of Zarite, the slave. When I saw the slave and I heard
her voice, wow, the book was done. Thank you very much.>>Muchos gracias. [ Applause ]>>Now don’t go anywhere
because we are about to confer the National Book
Festival Creative Achievement Award. I’d like to introduce Deanna
Marcum who is the Library of Congress’ Associate
Librarian for Library Services. Deanna.>>Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Good morning everyone. Isabel, that was absolutely
wonderful thank you so much it is my great
pleasure to present to Isabel Allende the Library of Congress National Book Festival
Creative Achievement Award. Ms. Allende for your
outstanding contribution to international letters, for
your involvement in the creation of the genre magical realism, for
your focus on the struggles of women and for your plays and children
stories a worldwide audience has risen. Ladies and gentlemen please join
me in recognizing Isabel Allende as the recipient of the
National Book Festival Creative Achievement Award. [ Applause ]>>And now I will sign
all your books.>>Book signing coming up.>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at

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