Magical Realist Historical Fiction by Women Writers: Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits and Gioconda Belli's The Inhabited Woman




Beltramo, María Luciana

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University of Guelph


This study is based on two contemporary novels written by Latin American women writers: The House of the Spirits (1982) by Isabel Allende and The Inhabited Women (1988) by Gioconda Belli. The purpose of my study is to discuss the ways in which the female characters respond to the social and political imperatives that history imposes on them, as they also question traditional structures and move a step forward towards their personal liberation. As witnesses of a political and social revolution in their countries, Allende and Belli articulate women’s voices, intertwine their personal experience and write alternative fictional stories which is mixed with the official story producing thus a new historical novel in Latin America. They also show that women are empowered through subtle means such as their collective memory, love and spirituality. After introducing the concepts of the new historical novel in Latin America, and after reviewing ideas regarding concepts as magical realism and collective memory, I will discuss how magical realism as a mode of expression widely used by Latin American writers that bridges historical realities, spirituality, and collective memory to give Latin American women writers a distinctive voice in the 1980s. This distinctive voice in The House of the Spirit and The Inhabited Woman take advantage of the Boom male writer’s achievements and create their own spaces to portray the revolutionary times in the 1970s in which women made significant contributions independently and in their relationship with men.



Latin American Historical Novel, magical realism, collective memory, Latin American women writers in the 1980s