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Why It Took Chile So Long To Honor Isabel Allende

The best-selling novelist is adored by ordinary Chileans (and millions of readers worldwide) but has been shunned by the cultural elite of her native country. She is not the first successful person to get such treatment.

Isabel Allende at a book signing event
Isabel Allende at a book signing event
Claudio Pereda Madrid
SANTIAGO — Chile is a said to be a hospitable place. Indeed as the Chilean refrain goes: "You'll see how much they can love a friend in Chile, if he is foreign."

There is a related tendency here, however, which is to downplay or ignore Chilean personalities of international prominence or repute. They call it el pago de Chile, the "Chilean wage," or "Chile's payback."

One of the country's founders, Bernardo O'Higgins, received this rather mean wage, ending his days in voluntary exile in Peru. More recently, Chilean intellectuals scoffed at the songs and singing style of Violeta Parra, now considered one of the great folk singers of the 20th century. Countless other, lesser personalities of our country have been paid in this coin.

Nobody is a prophet in their own country, they say, but in Chile we seem to take it a little further, forcing some talents to move a continent away to find their bearings in life.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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