The Stories of Eva Luna
by best-selling author Isabel Allende is a follow-up collection of short stories based on the main character of the novel Eva Luna
, which tells the story of a young South American woman who finds success as a storyteller. These stories are told in the style of the classic Arabian Nights
, with Eva Luna telling a series of tales to her lover Rolfe Carle. The book includes twenty-three short stories that deal with love, friendship, psychological insight, and a bit of humor. The Stories of Eva Luna
was published in Spanish in 1989 and in English two years later in 1991. The original novel, Eva Luna
, was published in 1987.
The collection begins with a hearkening back to the plot of Eva Luna
. Eva appears, lying in bed beside her third lover in the novel, journalist Rolfe Carle. Rolfe asks Eva for a story, and she asks him what kind of story he'd like. He replies that he wants a story that she has never told anyone else, that she has made up only for him. She agrees; the following twenty-three stories are new tales supposedly made up only for the pleasure of Rolfe Carle.
Though varied in tone and content, the stories include many recurring characters from the original novel. The stories deal primarily with feminist concerns, a prominent theme in many of Allende's stories and novels; many are based on the idea of female desire, and how it manifests in the world. In the first story, “Two Words,” a young girl Belisa creates for herself a job providing services related to the formulation of words and sentences. She studies dictionaries and learns language through hard work and effort. Later in her life, a prominent rebel, the Colonel, knowing that he has to win over the people, approaches Belisa, who offers to teach him the art of public speaking. The Colonel tries to pay Belisa, but, instead, she whispers two secret words in his ear and returns to her home. Later, the Colonel becomes ill, and one of his associates assumes that Belisa cursed him. He finds Belisa, and when she and the Colonel are reunited, they gaze longingly at each other, holding hands. The two words that Belisa whispered are never revealed.
Other stories deal with love and loss, including the tale “Wicked Girl,” in which a young woman is punished when she falls madly in love with her mother's lover and is scorned by him. Similarly, “Simple Maria” tells the story of a prostitute, whose belief in love and unending passion for love and for sex leads her to pursue a profession as a sex worker—not because she must, but because she wants to perfect the art of love. However, not all romance and sexuality in the stories are chosen by women. Allende also addresses sexual exploitation in the story of “Walimai,” in which a woman is used as a sex slave for the men on a local rubber plantation in the jungle, where she can't escape. To reconcile some of the pain inflicted on women by men, in the story “The Gold of Tomas Vargas,” two women, Tomas's wife and his new lover, are enraged when they discover that Tomas is cheating on them both; instead of taking it out on each other, they choose to conspire against him. The women plot his murder, and after they carry out their plan, they split his gold evenly, living happily on his fortune, which he never shared with either of them.
More stories of trauma and its effects follow in “The Schoolteacher's Guest,” when a female teacher murders the man who killed her son with a machete, and in “Our Secret,” in which two lovers reveal to each other that they were both tortured in the same way by the same abusive and oppressive political regime. The lovers heal by sharing their torturous experiences with one another. Allende makes it clear that the trauma and the residual pain left by these experiences is impossible to completely overcome.
All told, the stories offer a wide lens on both Allende's typically fantastical portrayal of South American life, and her more political and social agenda, which offers a realistic view of life in Chile and beyond. The focus continues to remain on female characters and their struggles, despite the fact that the stories are told for the benefit of a male protagonist.
Isabel Allende is a Chilean author of magical realist
novels and stories that portray various elements of life in South America, with a particular focus on women and families. Her most famous novels are House of Spirits
and City of Beasts
, both of which have become bestsellers worldwide. She has written nineteen novels to date, and four memoirs. In 2004, she became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and only a few years later, in 2010, she was awarded the National Literature Prize in Chile. In 2014, Barack Obama awarded Allende the Presidential Medal of Freedom.