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APHRODITE by Isabel Allende


A Memoir of the Senses

by Isabel Allende & translated by Margaret Sayers Peden

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-017590-7
Publisher: HarperCollins

An elegant grandmother ponders the erotic side of food and the most delicious aspects of eros. The noted Chilean novelist Allende (The House of the Spirits, 1985; Paula, 1995; etc.) now lives in San Francisco. One day she put on dark sunglasses and a brassy wig and went down to a big porno shop in order to begin research for this "memoir." However, it's not a memoir in the usual sense; the graceful Allende doesn't kiss and tell. She is never crude or exhibitionistic, and she does not seek to shock her gentle readers. She aims to amuse, to titillate, and to entertain us with the lore of food and sex, a few choice morsels from her own experience and fantasy life, and occasionally to advise aspiring seducers and seductresses. This volume—part memoir, part research project, part cookbook—seeks above all to charm the pants off us, literally. And Allende has this ability. The tone of her prose is persuasively warm and inviting, but also down-to-earth: "The shells of oysters, those seductive tears of the sea, which lend themselves to slipping from mouth to mouth like a prolonged kiss, are hell to open. They can be purchased in bottles, but there they look like malignant tumors; in contrast, moist and turgid in their shells they suggest delicate vulvae." The tales and anecdotes she offers whet the appetites; and her tidbits of erotic lore are food at least for thought, and perhaps more. In addition, there are many recipes for sensual cooks, provided by her aged mother, Panchita Llona, and by the novelist's Spanish agent, Carmen Balcells. Illustrations, tastefully sensual, are provided by Robert Schechter. Peden's translation has verve and immediacy. Allende's "erotic meanderings" give pleasure. She has a sure sense of the delicate relations between eros and writing. Her tact amplifies the eros that pornography kills. ($125,000 ad/promo; radio satellite tour)