UGent department critical of honorary doctorate for Isabel Allende

Summary

Ghent University’s department of Latin American literature has openly criticised the choice of the university to honour Chilean author Isabel Allende next month

‘Conventional, comfortable’

The department of Latin American literature at Ghent University (UGent) has spoken out against the honorary doctorate being awarded to Chilean author Isabel Allende. UGent professor Ilse Logie published an op-ed in De Standaard on the subject.

Allende, 74, is the author of many popular novels that have been translated into dozens of languages, including The House of the Spirits and City of the Beasts. She is scheduled to receive the doctorate on 24 March.

UGent’s vice-rector Freddy Mortier told De Standaard that Allende (pictured) was chosen because she is the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author and a standard bearer of feminist literature. He pointed out that she covered topics like the atrocities committed against indigenous populations in Chile. “All her themes are built around social issues,” he said.

Professor Logie, however, said that Allende is increasingly a purely commercial author and doesn’t agree that her works has a social impact. “Her work is popular, and that’s all there is to say about it,” Logie wrote. “The vision on mankind and society in her books is conventional and never takes readers out of their comfort zone.”

Logie also said that Allende confirms “the exotic cliché of Latin America as a magic-realistic continent where time has stood still – an image that does not at all reflect reality” – and that it is “incomprehensible that UGent would honour such an uncritical notion of literature”. She points to Elena Poniatowska and Diamela Eltit as writers of socially relevant Latin-American literature.

Photo: Lesekreis/Wikimedia

Ghent University

Ghent University (UGent) is one of Flanders’ most pluralistic and liberal institutions of higher education, and its motto has long been “dare to think”. UGent is renowned for its research in bio and life sciences.
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