Novel Views of Isabel Allende.(ARTS)

Article excerpt

Byline: Ann Geracimos, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The term "magical realism," so often applied to the works of Latin American writers, is misleading, author Isabel Allende says. Mrs. Allende, who spent many years of her life in Chile, appears Tuesday in the Literary Series at the National Museum of Women

in the Arts. She especially objects to magical realism as a blanket description of her own considerable output. The author feels far more comfortable being called a feminist.

"Yes, it follows me around in spite of the fact I have been writing 20 years and have published 11 books, with this element in only some of them," she says by telephone from her home in San Rafael, Calif. "All Latin American literature is labeled that way, but, you know, the new generation of writers have rejected that as much as they have rejected politics.

"Young people, who are very influenced by movies and the media, are not writing political books; their reality has changed," she says.

The genre implies that the fiction draws strictly on a surrealistic imagination to incorporate elements of myths and fantasy in a style made popular by the novels of Colombian-born Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize.

"I see my novels as just being realistic literature," she explains further on her Web site, where she gives her views at length in the format of a mythical Q&A. "They say that if Kafka had been born in Mexico, he would have been a realistic writer. So much depends on where you were born. ... Sometimes magic realism works and sometimes it doesn't. On the other hand, you will find those elements in most literature from all over the world, not just in Latin America."

She concedes that if the goal of literature is to explore life's mysteries, then "when you allow dreams, visions and premonitions to enter your everyday life and work as a writer, reality seems to expand."

The Tuesday event, which is co-sponsored by Borders Books & Music and billed as "A Conversation With Isabel Allende," is timed conveniently enough with publication of the author's most recent novel, "Portrait in Sepia." The book completes a trilogy begun with her first, "The House of the Spirits," which tells the story of 120 years in the fortunes of a Chilean family. …