Belli, Gioconda 1949(?)-

views updated

BELLI, Gioconda 1949(?)-

PERSONAL: Born December 9, 1949 (some sources cite 1948), in Managua, Nicaragua; daughter of Humberto (in business) and Gloria (a teacher; maiden name, Pereira) Belli; married, 1967 (divorced, c. 1979); married second husband, Sergio (divorced); married Charles Castaldi (a radio producer), April 10, 1987; children: (first marriage) Maryan, Melissa, (second marriage) Camilo (son), (third marriage) Adriana. Education: Attended Charles Morris Price School. Religion: Catholic.

ADDRESSES: Office—703 Twelfth St., Santa Monica, CA 90402.

CAREER: Alfa Omega Advertising Co., Nicaragua, account executive, 1973-75; Garnier Advertising, San Jose, Costa Rica, creative director, 1976-78; Sandinista National Liberation Front, Nicaragua, diplomat, 1978-79; Ministry of Economic Planning, Nicaragua, director of communications and public relations, 1979-82; Sandinista National Liberation Front, international press liaison, 1982-83, executive secretary and spokesperson, 1983-84; Nicaragua Writer's Union, Nicaragua, foreign-affairs secretary, 1983-88; Sistema Nacional de Publicidad, Nicaragua, managing director, 1984-86; writer, 1986—.

AWARDS, HONORS: Young Poetry Prize from National University, 1972; Casa de las Americas Poetry Prize, 1978, for Linea de fuego; Book Sellers, Editors and Publishers Prize from Friedrich Ebhert Foundation, 1989, for The Inhabited Woman; literary fellowship, 1989.


poetry in english translation

De las costilla de Eva, Nueva Nicaragua (Managua, Nicaragua), 1987, translation by Steven F. White published as From Eve's Rib, Curbstone Press (Willimantic, CT), 1989.

Nicaragua under Fire, Greville, 1989.


Sobre la grama (title means "On the Grass"), [Managua], 1974.

Linea de fuego (title means "Line of Fire"), Casa de las Americas (Havana, Cuba), 1978.

Truenos y arco iris (title means "Thunder and Rainbows"), Nueva Nicaragua, 1982.

Amor insurrecto (title means "Insurrect Love"), Nueva Nicaragua, 1984.

El ojo de la mujer (title means "Through a Woman's Eye"), Editorial Vanguardia (Managua, Nicaragua), 1991.

Sortilegio contra el frio, [Germany], 1992.

Work represented in anthologies; contributor of poetry to periodicals, including El Gallo Illustrado and La Presna Literaria.

novels in english translation

La mujer habitada, Editorial Vanguardia, 1988, translation by Kathleen March published as The Inhabited Woman, Curbstone Press, 1994, University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.


Sofia de los presagios (title means "Sophie and the Omens"), Editorial Vanguardia, 1990.

Also author of Waslala, 1995.


Nicaragua in Reconstruction and at War, MEP Publications, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN), 1985.

Apogeo, Anama Ediciones Centroamericanas (Managua, Nicaragua), 1997.

Erase una vez una mujer, EDUCA (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1998.

El pais bajo mi miel: Memorias de amor y guerra, Plaza & Janés Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 2001, translation by Kristina Cordero published as The Country under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.

Also author of a book for children whose title means "The Workshop of the Butterflies," 1994.

SIDELIGHTS: Gioconda Belli has won critical acclaim for her poetry and prose, as well as personal notoriety for her activities as a Nicaraguan revolutionary fighter. Belli's life began as a privileged member of Nicaragua's upper class. Protected from the harsh realities of widespread poverty and political injustice in her country, she was educated at private schools and abroad before beginning work at an advertising agency in the country's capital, Managua. Before she was twenty she married a young man who was also from the social elite, and began a conventional life with him. A colleague at work introduced her to someone with ties to the political guerrillas, however, and before long Belli was involved in their cause, leading a double life as a revolutionary. Eventually, her marriage collapsed, and Belli fled government forces, living for a time in Mexico and then Costa Rica.

Belli began her literary career in the mid-1970s with Sobre la grama, a poetry collection concerned with women's emotional and physical experiences and sensations. Belli followed Sobre la grama with another collection, Linea de fuego. In this volume Belli infused her leftist perspective with an intensity and intimacy that blurred the distinction between politics and sexuality. Linea de fuego was accorded the Casa de las Americas Poetry Prize in 1978.

After the Sandinistas toppled the Somoza regime in 1979, Belli returned to Nicaragua and held positions in the Sandinistan government. She continued to write, and in 1982 published the poetry collection Truenos y arco iris. Here Belli again proved her skill at fusing the political and the highly personal. De las costilla de Eva, a collection that was published in English as From Eve's Rib, drew attention for its sexually charged poems. In a 1995 Los Angles Times profile, Belli discussed the extremely personal nature of her work, describing her poetry as "very intimate" and adding that it is "filtered through my own experience, through my own body, through my own love life."

Belli also addressed politics and sexuality in her fiction. Her first novel, published in 1988 as La mujer habitada and later translated into English as The Inhabited Woman, has many autobiographical elements. It concerns an independent, politically ignorant young woman, Lavinia, who is drawn into a radical movement as a result of her affair with a revolutionary. In turn, Lavinia's lover undergoes a transformation that allows him to see the folly of his sexism and enables him to see Lavinia as an equal, even within the potentially violent revolution that they both advocate. Set in the fictional country of Faguas, this novel draws parallels between the emancipation of women and the fight for national liberation. The text itself combines elements of magical realism with the conventions of historical and sentimental novels. Feminist concerns were even more strongly evident in her next novel, Sofia de los presagios, which takes in themes of magic, motherhood, and eroticism. In Waslala, a third novel, the author revisited Faguas, but set her story far into the twenty-first century. The imaginary country has become a dumping ground for toxic waste and conventional garbage. Waslala is "a tale of love, adventure, politics, and environmental degradation," stated Linda J. Craft in Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century. She added that the author's "striking baroque imagery recreates cities of rubbish and lost souls."

Belli eventually took up residence in the United States after marrying an American. She recalled her colorful early years in a critically-acclaimed memoir, El pais bajo mi miel: Memorias de amor y guerra, which was published in English as The Country under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War. Like her poetry and her fiction, Belli's autobiography takes in revolutions large and small, personal and political. It is a memoir "that reads like a romance," noted Anderson Tepper in Nation. It is "nothing if not intimate, even excessively so. Her country's epochal events form the colorful backdrop for her breathless and episodic recounting of her own journey of self-transformation." A Kirkus Reviews writer also noted the book's romantic twists, but assured that the narrative can be evenhanded and objective as well: "Belli is a thoughtful and honest observer of herself and her times, critical of the course the Revolution took once the Sandinistas were in power." Donna Seaman, assessing the memoir for Booklist, recommended it as a "powerfully told story" that is "a tribute to beauty, valor, and justice."



Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2005.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


American Book Review, April-May, 1991.

Bomb, winter, 2001, Kenia Halleck, interview with Gioconda Belli, p. 74.

Booklist, November 1, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of The Country under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War, p. 470.

Guardian, November 13, 2002, Duncan Campbell, "Daughter of the Revolution," p. 7.

Hispanic, January-February, 2003, Ana Acle-Menendez, review of The Country under My Skin, p. 62.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of The Country under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War, p. 1275.

Kliatt, March, 2004, review of The Country under My Skin, p. 32.

Los Angeles Times, January 15, 1995.

Nation, December 2, 2002, Anderson Tepper, review of The Country under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, September 9, 2002, review of The Country under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War, p. 50.

Sunday Telegraph, November 10, 2002, Grace Bradberry, "From Debutante to Guerrilla."

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 28, 2003, review of The Country under My Skin, p. 6.

Voice Literary Supplement, November, 1994, pp. 11-12.

Washington Post, August 25, 1994, p. C3.

Women's Review of Books, April, 2003, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, review of The Country under My Skin, p. 12.


Gioconda Belli Home Page, (July 18, 2005).*

About this article

Belli, Gioconda 1949(?)-

Updated About content Print Article