September 25, 1998
The 1998 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize one of the largest prizes in the arts will be awarded to Isabel Allende, the Latin American author whose vivid prose evoke the tumultuous social and political heritage of South America. She will receive a silver medallion and approximately $200,000 at an awards ceremony to take place Oct. 13 in New York.
Ms. Allende become the fifth recipient of the Gish Prize, for which there is no competition and for which no one may apply. Previous recipients are singer/songwriter Bob Dylan (1997), artist/director Robert Wilson (1996), film director Ingmar Bergam (1995) and architect Frank Gehry (1994).
The Gish Prize committee, made up of well-known members in the arts community, changes every year. This year, its members are Gordon Davidson, artistic director of the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum of the Los Angeles County Music Center; mezzo-soprano Betty Allen, director of the Harlem School of the Arts; director/choreographer/dancer Martha Clarke; journalist and author Pete Hamill; and Kathy Hal-breich, director of the Walker Art Center & Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis.
Established in 1994 by The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize Trust and administered by The Chase Manhattan Bank and Nathan Hale as Trustees, the prize is given annually to "a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind's enjoyment and understanding of life." In her will, the late actress Lillian Gish stated: "It is my desire, by establishing this prize, to give recipients of the prize the recognition they deserve, to bring attention to their contributions to society and to encourage others to follow in their path." Lillian Gish died in 1993. Dorothy Gish, also an actress, died in 1968.
The sum of money awarded annually is equal to the net annual income earned by the Trust.
Isabel Allende is the author of seven books, with more than 10 million copies printed in 27 languages. Her first novel, The House of the Spirits (1982) chronicled four generations of a Chilean family against the backdrop of Chile's brutal history and received widespread critical acclaim. The New York Times called it "a unique achievement, both personal witness and possible allegory of the past, present and future of Latin America." It was followed by Of Love and Shadows (1984), Eva Luna (1985), Stories of Eva Luna (short stories, 1989), and The Infinite Plan (1991), all international bestsellers. In 1994, she wrote Paula, her first non-fiction book and a moving memoir inspired by the tragic fatal illness of her 28-years-old daughter. Her most recent book, also non-fiction and published in April 1998, is Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses, which celebrates the pleasures of the sensual life through food, stories, and personal anecdotes.
Isabel Allende was born in Lima, Peru, where her father served as a Chilean diplomat. Following her parents' divorce, she spent her adolescence in Bolivia, Europe and the Middle East with her mother and stepfather as her family followed her step-father's diplomatic career. Ultimately, she settled in Chile, where her uncle and godfather, Salvador Allende, was president from 1970 to 1973. It was there that she began working as a journalist. In 1973, in a military coup led by General August Pinochet Ugarte, her uncle was assassinated, and Ms. Allende escaped with her family to Caracas, Venezuela. She has since relocated to the United States, and lives in the San Francisco area with her American husband and their respective extended families.