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Isabel del Rio


Isabel's autobiography is written in English with quotes and excerpts in Spanish. It includes the fragmented story of a life lived between two countries, two languages, and two cultures. With the spectre of the Spanish Civil War hovering over many of the recollections in the book, the memoir tells the journey from a chequered past in a fascist dictatorship to a hopeful if challenging future where the protagonist affirms her identity both as a woman and as a writer.

The book also includes several photographs, mostly by the author.

288 pages - Third Edition

Published by Friends of Alice Publishing, London



In this autoethnographic study, the author delves into her past and brings forth both her most personal experiences and the relevant historical context. In the process of facing drama, grief and loss, she acquired critical perspectives for her writing, which she discusses at length in the book. As a feminist memoirist, the author examines the cultural and socio-economic issues which have impeded the development of women as individuals, preventing them from becoming the protagonists of their own lives. The text is written mostly in short fragments in English, with excerpts in Spanish.

Here are a few of the shorter excerpts from the book:


Every morning, upon waking up, she created a perfectly curated image of herself.

Mírame.  ¿Es que soy transparente, es que no existo, es que no me quieres?

That piece of hardened lava I always have beside me when I write I picked up from the summit of Vesuvius.


By then, the metastasis must have reached the tips of Mother’s toes and the very top of her 70’s hairstyle.  


You are here solely to be loved by me, he said by way of a declaration.


A sort of lullaby:  both during pregnancy and after birth, I would sing “Tres morillas” to my babies.


My first poetry book was called ‘Ciudad del interior’ to reflect the architecture of my dreams: a city with streets and squares and public parks to which I would return every few nights, all of them linked by a complicated underground system where certain tube lines offered no return journeys but led instead to dark and dead and very silent ends. 


You may be sitting comfortably and reading all these things, but do not forget that I am going through hell to narrate them to you.


Why not translate it as: “Estar o no estar, ésa es la cuestión.”

If I stop, it will be the end of me.

All those 8mm films from childhood show me primed and moulded into this charming, obedient, wholesome, impeccable little girl who had no say whatsoever in her life.  Yes, even then they were intent on making me into the perfectly subdued woman.

“El cielo y el infierno están en esta tierra” as Grandfather used to say after every single incident, whether good or bad.


Women’s history is mostly an oral history, and our knowledge was passed from generation to generation by word of mouth through traditions and rituals: from dialogues that held many of the secrets of civilization and progress over centuries to the teachings of universal folklore and mythologies.  It is a history that still needs to be fully and painstakingly documented.  Until then, we must write it down individually, one by one.

I hold all these memories to be nothing but true and real, but then I cannot seek conclusive confirmation of what happened, for there are no survivors from most of the episodes told, places have disappeared, ideas have been superseded.  

Más resultó en menos, mucho se convirtió en poco, crecer fue perecer, tanto se quedó en nada…


She tried to fill the emotional void by being so very over-attached to inanimate objects, mostly family mementoes.  Eventually she worked out that people cannot be replaced with things, but then neither can things be replaced with people.

On a day like today I am mostly writing in survival mode.

Any occasion is good to reassess your life:  after watching a sunset; after declaring your love; after going for a long swim; after brushing your teeth; after lunch or after supper; after suffering a stroke. 


I was born with one mother tongue.  But aged seven, I acquired a second one just like that.   Each mother tongue arrives with a fresh set of thoughts and desires and beliefs, requiring me to be a different person when speaking one or the other.  Both languages fight furiously within me to control the situation and establish the rules.  Who am I, I would ask, this one or that one? ¿Ésta o ésa?


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