Allende travels the way she reads and writes and eats and talks: with passion, and constantly. Though unofficially ensconced in the California abode of her "gringo," she remains a resident of Venezuela. She is divorced, and her son Nicolas, 21, also lives in Caracas. Daughter Paula, 24, is a graduate student in community psychology at the University of Virginia.
Her departure from Chile was a personal decision, Allende explained, prompted by fear and threats veiled and actual to her family.
Real Danger or Just Threats?
"You never know if you are really in danger or if all those threats are just threats," she said. "But you become very afraid.
"That is what happened to me. I saw that the dictatorship was becoming stronger every day. I was scared, that was why I left."
As an exile, she said, "you never feel that you can plant any roots anyplace else. It takes a very long time to understand that your roots are within yourself."
Belatedly, perhaps, Allende the storyteller has taken it upon herself to write the stories of Eva Luna the storyteller. After three novels, she finds she is struggling with the short story form.
"In novels, it is important what you put in. In short stories, it is what you take out," Allende said. "For me that is very difficult because I talk and I talk, and I write and I write."
With very little provocation, Allende began unraveling yet another story, this tale about the astrologers and practitioners of the occult who seem to gravitate to her out of nowhere. Soon she was sagely discussing astrological signs, nodding with authority as each person present revealed his birth sign.
What did it all mean?
"How should I know?" Allende said, laughing. "Why do I need to know about something to talk about it?"