Chilean writer Isabel Allende says the coronavirus pandemic has exposed stark inequalities that will continue to fuel protests in the United States and around the globe.
The 77-year-old author believes it will be up to the younger generations to build a new normal, founded on gender and racial equality.
Allende, perhaps best known for her novel “The House of the Spirits,” has a nonfiction book on feminism coming out in November, entitled “What Women Want.”
She is a disciplined writer with a well-known tradition: every January 8th, she sits down to start a new work.
This year was no exception, but she admits that working efficiently during a global health emergency has been a challenge.
In an interview with AFP via video call from her home near San Francisco, Allende talks about her writing process, her vision for a post-pandemic world, and what she thinks about recent US protests.
Q: How has the pandemic disrupted your routine?
A: The pandemic, lockdown, fear of the virus, and all the protests that have taken place have left people stuck. It’s not easy. It happens to me too, but I am very disciplined.
Half the battle is showing up at the computer at the same time every day. Look, it’s possible that what gets done on any given day will be useless. But it doesn’t matter. That’s how books get written — little by little, and with patience.
Q: Has the pandemic influenced your work?
A: “The pandemic is going to result in a wave, an avalanche, of new interpretations of our reality — not only in the arts, but in philosophy, history, everything. (…) But in my case, I need time and a bit of distance to see things.
“I could have written “The House of the Spirits” right after the military coup in Chile in 1973. It took me more than eight years to write it, because I needed that time to process what happened… And I think I’m going to do the same with what’s going on now.”
Q: Have you learned anything during the lockdown?
A: “The pandemic has taught me to let go of material things, to help me realize how little I really need. (…) I look around me and I ask myself why there is all this stuff, why I need more than two plates.
“Then, I want to figure out who my real friends are, and who I really want to spend time with.”
Q: What do you think the pandemic is teaching us all?
A: “It’s teaching us to look at our priorities and it’s showing us our reality. Inequality is the reality — how some people spend lockdown on a yacht in the Caribbean, and others go hungry.
“It’s also teaching us that we are all one big family. What happens to a human being in Wuhan happens to the entire planet, happens to all of us. (….) There are no walls, there are no walls that can separate people.
“Creative people, artists, scientists, all the young people, many women — all are thinking about what the new normal looks like. They don’t want to go back to what was normal before. This is the most important question of our time: this dream of a different world. We have to get to it.”
Q: How would that new world be different?
A: “It would be the end of the patriarchy. These brutish men who rule the world would be run out. It would mean a world in which men and women share equally in running the planet. (…)
“Let it not be violence and greed that rules the world, but solidarity, compassion and hope. This is the world that we want, a world in which there is respect for nature and for other species.
“Young people are going to inherit a world that we’ve torn apart. They are the ones who must save the planet, if it can be saved. I hope they have a positive solution.”
Q: What do you think of the recent protests in the United States?
A: “The protests are about racial justice and that is directly linked to the issue of poverty.
“Who are the poorest people in this country? Who are the ones with worse health care, fewer jobs, who suffer more police brutality, who are jailed more often? African-Americans.
“I think these outbursts of protest are going to start happening everything. There is a tremendous global economic crisis. And that is going to lead to more unemployment, more poverty and, therefore, more violence.
“There will be more protests — huge protests.
“These problems cannot be resolved with bullets or tear gas. They’ll only be resolved by tackling the root causes. These are deep-seated problems, that date back to the era of slavery.”