Society & Culture
'Spirit of India'
the-south-asian.com March 2001
Page 1 of 5
Traditional Cultures - their wisdom and challenges
About the author: Isabel Allende is perhaps the world's greatest living woman writer. Her books have been translated into nearly thirty languages and have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Two of her novels have been made into successful Hollywood films. Isabel Allende was born in Peru, and moved to Chile at the age of three. She began her writing career as a journalist in Chile. When a military coup overthrew her uncle, Chilean President Salvador Allende, she fled to Venezuela where she lived for 13 years, working as a journalist and also wrote and published her first three novels. In 1985, she came to the United States as a visiting professor of literature. She lives in California with her husband. Her most profound book to date remains 'Paula', published in 1994.
"ět is our ethnic and cultural diversity-our differences in language, customs and beliefs-that provide the strength, resiliency and creativity of our species."
I WAS BORN over a half-century ago in the Southern
Hemisphere, before television made its appearance. It was a
quiet life in a provincial atmosphere, bounded by the
streets of our neighborhood. I thought that everyone was
like us, except for the poor people I saw from time to time
when we drove out into the country, and who filled me with a
mixture of pity and fear. They seemed different, as if they
lived in another dimension.
THE FIRST TIME I had any hint of the size and complexity of
the world was when one of my uncles returned from India. He
was the only person in the family, probably in the whole
city, who had traveled so far from home. He had set out in
search of the 999 names of God and returned a skeleton with
eyes of an illuminati, with no luggage but a few yellowing
notebooks in which he had recorded his impressions. We
children would sit at his feet and listen to his stories of
faraway peoples, amazing customs, landscapes of stunning
beauty, and temples of multiple gods. This prodigious uncle
was the professor of a crystal ball. It was, I suppose, only
a simple glass sphere, one of those things fishing boats use
as floats for their nets, but he convinced us that in it we
could see any point on earth. His words were so eloquent and
we children were so hypnotized that in fact we did believe
we saw reflected in that magical ball all the visions
summoned by our uncle. Thanks to him, I developed an
uncontainable curiosity about other cultures that has taken
me many places around the globe, and today I can say, like
the great Mexican writer Octavio Paz, that ět is our ethnic
and cultural diversity-our differences in language, customs
and beliefs-that provide the strength, resiliency and
creativity of our species.
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