My Invented Country by Isabel Allende

Chile: My Invented Country

  • Book:  “My Invented Country: A Memoir”
  • Author:  Isabel Allende
  • Publisher:  HarperCollins, New York, 2003

Isabel Allende, the author of this book, is a niece to the former president of Chile, Salvador Allende.  The former president (1970-1973) has actually lost his life during the military coup that brought the infamous Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, to power.

Before you start reading this interesting book you should know a bit of the author’s background.  The author was born into a wealthy family, with a lot of privileges and means, that were readily available to the “high society”.  She had traveled quite a bit with her family during her early years, and had eventually immigrated to Venezuela (in 1975) and later to the United States.

This book is full of personal recollections of Isabel’s life in Chile, as well as of interesting observations about the country and its citizens.

Some of the things that are discussed in this book, include: the machismo behavior that is so predominant in Chilean men and what it actually entails, and on the opposite side – the submissive role of women, whose (unspoken) primary role is to serve their husbands and kids; as well as the family traditions, the double standards, the issue of domestic violence, and gender inequality, the role of Church and the government, and many other topics.

The author’s love for her home country and her deep understanding of what it means to be a Chilean, is evident through every page of this well-written book.  Isabel does not try to hide any negative aspects of the Chilean society, such as the love for gossip, the self-absorption, the arrogance, and so forth, in the same way she doesn’t neglect the positive aspects, such as the swift readiness and the willingness to help one’s neighbor in need, the incredible hospitality, and the general conformity to the established rules and norms.

Finally, if you would like to read a bit about the late 1900s history of Chile, including the brutal regime of Pinochet, from the first person account – this book covers that as well.

By reading this book, you will gain a deeper level of understanding of the historic times, and the traits that make up the Chilean society.

“To illustrate how free we are about prescribing, once during a southern cruise to our beautiful San Rafael lagoon in the cold fjords of the south, we were given sleeping pills with dessert.  At dinner the captain notified the passengers that we were about to sail through particularly rough waters, and then his wife went from table to table handing out pills, the name of which no one dared to ask.  We took them obediently and twenty minutes later all passengers were out like a light, suggesting the story of Sleeping Beauty.  My husband said that in the United States the captain and his wife would have been arrested for anesthetizing the passengers.  In Chile we were very grateful.” (p. 136) 

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