Representing Chronic Disorders of Consciousness: The Problem of Voice in Allende’s Paula
Abstract

Abstract:

This article explores problems of voicelessness in Isabel Allende’s Paula (1995) through a focus on the story of Paula’s illness and subsequent death from porphyria in 1992. I argue that the language, categories and stories through which disorders of consciousness are constructed are central to ethical decision-making and shifting cultural understandings of these conditions. In Paula, Allende uses an experimental, hybrid narrative form that draws on illness narrative, magical realist novel, national history, letters, and memoir to challenge traditional depictions of “coma” and to create a new public space through which these issues of voicelessness can be addressed.