SANTIAGO – Novelist Isabel Allende was selected to receive Chile’s 2010 National Literature Prize, Education Minister Joaquin Lavin said Thursday.
The author, whose works have sold some 55 million copies worldwide and been translated into 27 languages, beat out a list of candidates including Antonio Skarmeta, Poli Delano, Hernan Rivera Letelier, Enrique Lafourcade and German Marin.
Born in 1942 in Lima, where her father was Chile’s ambassador to Peru, Allende is the fourth women to receive this biennial prize, joining Gabriela Mistral, Marta Brunet and Marcela Paz.
Lavin said in announcing the choice that in the jury’s opinion, Isabel Allende, author of books such as “La casa de los espiritus” (The House of the Spirits) and “Eva Luna,” “has given renewed value to the role of the reader,” not only in Chile but also abroad.
Allende, who lives in the United States, was notified of the honor by Lavin before it was officially announced in Chile.
Allende spoke with members of the jury after the announcement was made, expressing her excitement and taking the opportunity to send a warm greeting to a group of 33 miners who have been trapped at a copper and gold mine in northern Chile since Aug. 5.
She added that she will arrive in her homeland on Sept. 16 for the bicentennial celebration of Chile’s independence.
Reached at her home in San Rafael, California, Allende told Efe the award “is undoubtedly the most important prize” she has received in her career and something she never expected.
“You’re never a prophet in your own land,” said the niece of late Chilean President Salvador Allende, who died during the 1973 coup that toppled his government.
“I became so emotional that I started to cry. So did my husband, my mom in Chile and even my dog,” an elated Allende said, adding that the prize – her homeland’s highest literary honor – tops everything else she has won.
“I never imagined this. They’d nominated me once before and, well, why bring up how they raked me over the coals, because it was horrible,” the writer said, referring to Chilean writers and critics who have questioned the literary merit of her works.
“My life won’t change at all,” Allende said. “I’ll keep writing and living. I have another novel that’s finished and in the hands of my agent – which, as of now, is to be published in 2011 – and after that I want to take a one-year sabbatical and rest. Charge my batteries because I’m tired.” EFE