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tv   100 Women  BBC News  November 24, 2018 1:30pm-2:00pm GMT

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hello, this is bbc news. the headlines. theresa may is set to head to brussels for talks today with top eu officials ahead of sunday's crucial summit to formally sign off the brexit deal. spain has said it will not attend unless a last—minute disagreement over gibraltar is resolved. the dup deputy leader nigel dodds has told the pm it's not too late to bin her brexit deal. speaking at his annual conference, he's warned that the proposed withdrawal agreement would see the uk assume a "pitiful and pathetic place". french police fire tear gas and a water cannon to disperse protesters in paris who are demonstrating for a second weekend against rising fuel prices. the white house has dismissed a government report that warns unchecked climate change will seriously damage the economy and effect human health. the warning is at odds with the trump administration's fossilfuels agenda. kirsty wark speaks to acclaimed chilean author isabel allende
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about the power of storytelling, her previous life as a refugee and desire to live a passionate life. isabel allende is one of the most acclaimed writers in the world. her novels have sold more than 70 million copies and have been translated from spanish into 42 languages. she draws on her own eventful life in herfiction. stories of love, exile and loss. she is truly the queen of spanish literature. an activist and a feminist, i have come to california where she lives for a special interview. we talk about the power of storytelling, her work among impoverished women and children, and a desire to live a passionate life. isabel allende, what was it about your childhood and upbringing
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in chile that prepared you in a way for being such a storyteller? i was born in the ‘aos in chile. there was no television. i lived in my grandfather's house and he was a widower and in mourning for many years. so there was no radio, no theatre, no entertainment of any sort except for reading and telling stories. i think that prepared me for this vice of storytelling. not only telling them, i love to hear stories. i have had that inclination all my life. you have these two incredible characters. you had your mother and your grandfather, but it was also a tumultuous time personally for you. one of the most extraordinary things was hearing that your mum, when your father left, cut his picture out
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of all of the photographs. as an image, for a child growing up, that must have been extraordinary. i never missed my father. perhaps i did when i was very young but i do not remember that. he left when i was three. my mother said that i was very close to him, so maybe there was a moment when i asked about him, but i don't remember that at all. i remember a childhood without a father and his absence did not mean anything to me much. there were no photographs of him, his name was never mentioned, and if anybody, my brothers or i, would ask, my mother would say that he was a very intelligent man, nothing else. that was it. and you knew not to ask further? yeah, because it would upset her. in my invented country: a memoir, you write, "chile is a hypocritical country bustling with scruples in relation to six and sensuality. in relation to sex and sensuality.
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a nation of old ladies, male and female". for someone as passionate as you, did it feel stultifying? absolutely. remember, the time, also — when i went through the ‘50s in chile, if it was stifling here, it was terrible in chile. plus, i belonged to a very socially conservative family, and catholic. so there was also that in my background. in a household that was my grandfather's house but with my uncles, bachelor uncles, my mother was the only female. very early on i could see what a disadvantage it is to be born a woman. and i say it is because it still is, in spite of everything that women have achieved in my lifetime, i feel that men have a better deal. then you worked on this new magazine, paula... that was much later. ..but which hit chile like a hurricane. it did, it did. so you were writing about things that were taboo and talking
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about women's sexuality. what was it that was so extraordinary for chileans to read? because people did not talk about a lot of things, and of course nothing was published about that. and then this magazine came out, which was first of all very beautiful. it had fashion and beauty and was in colour and was lovely. and very avant garde for chile at the time. there was no competition. and we were four women, or three journalists, that were young and we had read feminist books from england and from the united states. we were full of ideas. and we didn't care about anything. we were just very defiant and rebellious and it was fun. so we started publishing articles and interviews about things that nobody had ever spoken publicly about in chile, like abortion and infidelity and adultery and prostitution and drugs and stuff that was totally taboo.
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my grandfather was absolutely horrified. he couldn't believe that someone from his own blood was writing this kind of thing. but then you had the coup. so your father's cousin is salvador allende. you must remember that time. you know, you were a young woman, it was an extraordinary time. yes, of course. and then can you remember exactly where you were during the coup? yeah, i was in my house. the coup was happening in downtown san diego. and then i left in my car and i realised that something was going on, that streets were empty and there were military trucks and something was happening. i got to my office and it was closed and the concierge at the door said "go back home, go back home, this is a military coup". he was very happy because he was a total right—wing jerk and he said go home.
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i didn't know what a military coup was, because in chile we didn't have precedent for this. if that was terrifying then, it became much more terrifying. you know, the first day was terrifying because it was so unexpected. the use of helicopters, the bombing of the palace, the shooting, the burning of books, the arresting of people and shovelling them into trucks. all of that was terrifying on the first day, but then we had a curfew and nobody could get out for three days. and television, everything was censored. we didn't have any news, only rumours. in a way, during those three days we got used to the idea that something extraordinary had happened, but it wouldn't last. the idea was that it was a historical accident. and then, in the months to come, the days, weeks and months to come, we realised what it is to live in terror. for half the population, because the other half
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was having a great time. and, indeed, that split initally was in your own family. everywhere. everywhere, not only my family, i think every family in chile had at least one person who had suffered the repression. and families were split. couples were split. eventually you fell foul of the regime. how was that? i started hiding people and trying to get people into embassies for asylum, which many people were doing. there was nothing heroic about this because we really didn't know the consequences yet. and then later, when the circle of repression closed more and became more efficient, then i got scared. and got denounced. well, yeah. but people were denouncing everywhere. in your latest novel, in the midst of winter, you return to chile in 1973, and your protagonist, lucia, gets out of chile with the help of a family
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friend, a cardinal. how did you get out? i got out with no problem. i had a passport, ijust went to the airport and left, alone first. and i went to venezuela, because venezuela was one of the very few democratic countries left in latin america where you could go and they would give a visa to a chilean. because in mexico we were not allowed any more. so ijust left thinking that i would come back in a month. and then my husband said, well, he found out i could not go back. so then he left with the children. we closed the house and he left. you have written that it's quite a different thing being an exile and being an immigrant. of course. an exile, of course, is not chosen but you were in caracas for 13 years. i was in caracas for 13 years and i ended up loving that country, venezuela. and loving its people. and i left because i fell
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in love with an american and moved here before we have democracy in chile. is that a regret that you didn't return? i don't regret anything, because the important events in my life has happened in spite of me. they have not been under my control. the fact that my father left, that i lived with my grandfather, that i had been a foreigner, that i was a political refugee, that eventually i became an immigrant, all these things happened, like, decided by destiny or karma or who knows what. i have just lived whatever life offered me. in exile in caracas, you came upon the idea of being a writer. you were already a journalist, but you came upon the idea of being a writer. holding onto memories, you said, "it helped to break the chain of hate in your soul." what do you mean by that?
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because... and i think this happened to many people, that when you are forced out of a place, when you have to leave everything behind, when you feel that everything familiar and dear to you is lost, you have grudges. and you feel that something is owed to you or something. that you have been stolen of something. i got over that feeling completely. the irony, that the coup in chile by pinochet was backed by the us and yet the us has been your home for all this time. yes. and there are many things about the us that i do not like, mostly the intervention in latin america, not only in chile, uruguay, argentina, but what's happening today in central america is the consequences of the americans who were there backing murderous dictatorships. and the cia's involvement in south america has been well charted. we will talk about donald trump later, butjust to carry on the idea
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that there is this caravan of guatemalans and hondurans, what should donald trump do about them? what should be done about them? well, i think that you have to help. you cannot send troops to stop families with children and babies. that's crazy. the way — and i have a friend who has studied this in—depth — the way to stop refugees is improve the conditions in their place of origin. there were no syrian refugees in the world before the war started there and now there are five million displaced people. in central america, especially guatemala, el salvador and honduras, what is called now the triangle of the north, taken over by narcos, by gangs, by corrupt police, nothing works and people live in poverty and terror. people leave.
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now, this is the consequence, the legacy of the horrible war against the indigenous people and the poor in these countries, supported by the united states in the 1980s, with the genocide of indigenous people. what you have to do is improve their condition within the country so that people do not leave. nobody wants to leave. we leave in despair. we don't leave because we want to leave. your books have been translated into 42 languages. but how do they come to you? you write in spanish all the time. i write in spanish, well, fiction. i can write a speech in english, or something that is nonfiction. but fiction happens here, it doesn't happen in the brain. so i would not be able to process fiction with dictionaries. no. what does that feel like? you still think in spanish? yes. and i dream in spanish, i pray in spanish, i make love in spanish. i would feel ridiculous panting in english, actually. laughter.
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loss, obviously is a thread that does run through your literature. if it's loss of home, country, loss of family. butjust tell me about the house of spirits. because it started first as a letter to your grandfather. yes. what did you want to say to him? that i remembered everything he had ever told me, because he was dying and i knew that he had told me so many stories, in a way i had been the receiver, the beneficiary of all those stories and i did not want him to think they were lost. i had them with me, all of them. he died, he was almost 100. but it was the natural order of things. but the loss of your daughter, paula, which was so unforeseen... yeah, well, you know... there is a quote at the beginning of in the midst of winter, and it's a quote by albert camus that says, "in the midst of winter i finally found in me
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an invincible summer". and it is the story of three people who are living in an emotional winter. they need to get out of it somehow and find the invincible summer. when my daughter died, i went through the longest and darkest winter of my life. after she died my mother said that mourning for your child is like walking through a long and dark tunnel. she said just keep walking. day after day, tear after tear, just walk and there is light at the end. and i always thought of it as a winter, as being in winter. eventually i could emerge from the winter. the other thing my mother said is that nothing will happen to you ever again that is comparable. you have already gone through hell. the rest of your life is easy.
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she was absolutely right. things happened to me, good and bad but when something happened that is bad i always compare it and i say this is not even 10% of how bad that was. all the time your daughter was in a coma, you were with her... yes. ..by her side and then you said that, when you wrote paula, you said that that saved your life. yes, because i wasn't depressed because depression is very paralysing — and i come from a depressive family, i know how it looks — i was very sad but not depressed. but in a way, i saw everything dark and i saw that there was no reason to keep on living. i couldn't understand what had happened because the whole year of paula in a coma was, for me, like one long night. i couldn't separate days 0i’...0i’ season oi’ events.
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everything was just one thing. and writing the book, i based the book on the letters i had written to my mother that she gave me back and i could read them in chronological order. you were writing to your mother every day from hospital. yes. well, first, the first 100 days we were together in spain, but then, when i brought paula here and before that, she left because she couldn't take it any more. she got sick. so she went back to chile. and then i started writing to her, sometimes more than once a day. it was everything from profound things to everyday things, to lists, to gossip — what were in these letters? everything. i had a more interesting life than my mother because i do more things and it is more public, so i had more to tell her but at the end, in the last few years, when she was almost homebound because she was very old and fragile, she had a wonderful inner world that she could write about.
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her dreams, her desires, her grudges, her ailments, everything, everything. and you have these thousands of letters, will you read them again? i am reading them. are you? yeah, so now that she is not here, and i need her letters every day, because the first thing in the morning, i would run to my computer to open my mother's letter. last thing at night, i write to her about the day. so now i keep on writing with the idea that maybe there is wi—fi in the other world, who knows? laughter. and i read her letters, one by one — one a day only because i don't want to get crazy. somebody said to me, you are the kind of the queen of spanish literature. you know, there's noone with more acclaim than you. i was going to ask about... do you feel the weight of responsibility about that? not more than i felt with the first book. the responsibility i have is to write honestly about things
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that i feel are true in my heart. write the best i can. and do not write anything that will give ideas to a psychopath. for example, i know a lot about torture, i know about rape, i know about the things that happened to women everywhere, i have a foundation, i see the cases. i tell the cases without going into the detail of how it is done, or what really happens, because i don't want anybody to get ideas. 0n the other hand, when i talk about love or about sex or about other things that i think people should know and enjoy, then i get to be more explicit. but i have a responsibility with my readers not to... not to create more disturbance, psychological, evil. i don't want more of that.
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you talked candidly in 2015 about donald trump, before he entered the white house, and you called him a "raging lunatic". what do you think he is now? i think he's a very smart lunatic, that he knows exactly how to mobilise his base and he has created his power on fear, hatred and lies. but you also said that he is not the actual cause of xenophobia and racism... "he is harvesting sentiments that exist". absolutely. and i wonder about that because, i wonder, do you everfeel that personally even? the idea that there is an apartheid in america, you've said, and it is ok if you look like an american. i mean, do you think he is harvesting sentiments that exist, particularly in relation to people from central america, for example?
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when i came to the united states 30 something years ago — 31 years ago — i told the man who would later become my husband, willie, i said, this is a fascinating country, willie, but it is also a very potentially fascist country. and he said, what are you talking about? this is the cradle of democracy. and i said, yeah but look at the south, look at the middle of the country, look at segregation, the mental segregation of people because, even if the country got over slavery and got over segregation, it is still rooted in the culture and the hearts of so many people. so he denied it completely then. now he admits that i was right from the very beginning. and i think that the white population that supports trump feels very threatened by anything that defies or threatens their privileges or their superiority or the fact that they have been
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in control always. that is shifting also, and it is very scary. but donald trump would says that he is lowering taxes and increasing employment, and that leads to a better... yeas, but lowering taxes for the rich. it is true that there is more employment but there is enough employment in this country for all the refugees that are coming, which probably he will stop at the border, with the military. just returning to talk a bit about south america. i mean, there are huge problems in venezuela and you lived there for 13 years. oil prices collapsed, socialist government... it's a totally collapsed government. so what do you think, what is the problem in venezuela? government. because the country has all the resources. at the time, when i went there in the 70s, it was one of the richest countries in the world, because of the oil boom. and the problem, at that time, everything looked very abundant and there was a lot of corruption but there was enough
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corruption for everybody. and there were two political parties — the adecos and the copeyanos — and they took turns for power. somehow corruption was enough for everybody, and they forgot the poor, they forgot the people in the rural areas, they forgot the favelas — they forgot the poor. that is what chavez harvested also. and that was needed. chavez was a very smart man and very charismatic, but then he left maduro in charge and maduro has brought the country to ruin. are you a spiritual person? i'm not a religious person but i do believe that there is much more than what we can see. and that there is transcendence, in a way, and there is spirit in everything — in nature, in animals, in people.
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i do not feel disconnected to my mother or to paula. i'm connected to whatever form they have now. is that an exercise just in love and memory? in my bed and she told me, "mum, let me go, it's and then i ran down stairs — there she was, exactly as i had left, with a nurse, exactly as i had left her a few hours before. but if you ask me if i saw her? i saw every detail of her. and i'm sure that she left her slippers next to in my bed. so is that that i was in so much pain that i went crazy? i was not on drugs, i hadn't taken
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sleeping pills, i was not stoned. what was that? was that paula coming to me and saying, "0k, it's time, let me go." i don't know. i don't want to know. isabel allende, thank you very much. thank you very much. "this book has helped me understand that i'm not obligated to make a decision. i can have one foot in chile and another here. that's why we have planes. for the moment, california is my home and chile is the land of my nostalgia. my heart isn't divided, it has merely grown larger. i can live and write anywhere." time to your latest weekend weather
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update now. there is a lot of cloud coming into the east and south of the uk today and tomorrow. there has been a bit patchy rain and showers out of that, here is a view of norfolk earlier. towards the north—west of the uk, north—west england and western and northern scotland, we find the blue sky. always favoured with an easterly breeze. the big picture this afternoon, there is over the frontier so some of us have had some persistent rain out of this. it has been drifting west across southern england and south wales. it will pour westward of the afternoon goes on, we are left with drizzle and showers towards the south coast, perhaps heavier ones in the isles of scilly and the channel islands. you could have some hail or rumble of thunder. this is the view at apm. a lot of cloud across southern england, south wales, the midlands into it east and you. —— east anglia. some breaks in the cloud in
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northern ireland, sunny spells in western and northern scotland. part of north—west england, eastern scotla nd of north—west england, eastern scotland and the northern isles have showers, so some wet weather on and off. most of us in single figures, six to 9 degrees, one or two spots to ten or 11 degrees. the easterly flow tonight with plenty of cloud and showers to the east and south of the uk. some clear spells elsewhere but where you are clear for any period of time, north—west england, northern ireland and western scotland, you could seek a touch of frost but most of us will avoid that. tomorrow is as you work but the showers will be more frequent, pushing west on a stronger breeze towards northern ireland and some into east anglia and the south east england. variable cloud, sunny spells, feeling a little bit cooler tomorrow is specially in stronger winds in scotland. monday is another quiet day. after that, this hardly needs words, you conceive yourself,
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it is turning much more active. the isobars are closer together, windy and wet weather. all of that will be bringing in some milder air. you might not notice it too much because it will be much wetter and windy for a time. this is how things are shaping up tuesday into wednesday and this very unsettled and active weather, milder with it, will continue into next week end. this is bbc news. i'm lukwesa burak. the headlines at 2pm: theresa may is set to head to brussels for talks with top eu officials ahead of sunday's crucial summit to formally sign off the brexit deal. the dup is expected to re—affirm her opposition to the eu withdrawal deal at her party's annual conference. the brawler portrays a beautiful and
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pathetic place for the united kingdom. french police use water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters gathering in central paris who are demanding a cut in the price of fuel. aus a us government report warns that unchecked climate change will cost the country hundreds of williams of dollars and damage human health and quality of life.
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