‘Barrabás came to us by sea’: Absence and Presence in Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits

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Nwosu, Maik
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In Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, framed by the same sentence – Barrabás came to us by sea –, her narrative style evidences the dialectics of absence and presence. The present is inexorably connected to the absent and the absent is paradoxically discernible in the present. This dialectics is evident in the novel’s presentation of Chile (Latin America), its treatment of the ‘invisibility’ of blacks, the virtual erasure of Indians, and the ‘disempowerment’ of women. In each of these instances, there is a significant interaction between presence and absence that is an important aspect of the novel’s intercultural structure. The character of Barrabás is especially important in the manner that it points to a conjunction of worlds – both the known and the unknown – and facilitates a widening of the magic sphere in The House of the Spirits.
Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits