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Aldunate, Elena

Entry updated 26 April 2021. Tagged: Author.

(1925-2005) Working name of Chilean author María Elena Aldunate Bezanilla, one of the first women in that country to produce a sizeable body of sf, though she wrote Utopian fantasies and realist works as well. She was vice president and co-founder, along with Hugo Correa, Roberto Pliscoff and Andrés Rojas Murphy, of the Club Chileno de Ciencia Ficción [Chilean SF Club] in the early 1970s.

Aldunate's literature, which consistently features female protagonists and explores psychological and existential themes from a woman's perspective (see Women in SF), reflects the influence of mid-twentieth-century Latin American feminism in narratives that convey women's struggles for self-expression, personal fulfillment and empowerment in a traditionalist, patriarchal society.

After producing three works of non-genre fiction, Aldunate published her first sf story, the symbolic "Juana y la cibernética" ["Juana and Cybernetics"] in 1963. Remarkable for its disturbing eroticism, the story tells of a lonely young woman (a common character type in Aldunate's fiction) who is accidentally locked inside the factory where she works over a long holiday weekend and whose overwhelming sense of emptiness and frustration leads her to self-destruct in a passionate, violent sexual encounter with a metal-punching machine. This work was followed by a novel and two sf/fantasy collections: El señor de las mariposas ["Lord of the Butterflies"] (coll 1967), Del cosmos las quieren vírgenes ["The Cosmos Wants Them Virginal"] (1977) and Angélica y el delfín ["Angélica and the Dolphin"] (coll 1977). The title story from this last collection won second prize in the "Nueva Dimensión" competition sponsored by the Club de Ciencia Ficción de Madrid [SF Club of Madrid]. Aldunate's final sf publications were two 1984 stories, "Ela y los terrícolas" ["Ela and the Earthlings"] and "El ingenio" ["Ingenuity"] (both in Tres veces siete, anth 1984, ed Maité Allamand et al) and the series of five children's books written for her five granddaughters that feature an extraterrestrial named Ur.

Much of Aldunate's sf expresses a yearning for a Utopian future in which human nature and society are vastly bettered thanks to the benevolent guidance of advanced Extraterrestrials. Love of nature, pacifism, acceptance of others and true communication are recurring themes in her work, as are self-exploration and women's hidden strengths and desires. Her prose is lyrical and polished; its meditative, oneiric quality has been compared with the fiction of Marta Brunet and María Luisa Bombal. Aldunate has said her sf models include Jules Verne, H G Wells, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov and her compatriot Hugo Correa. She was also inspired by her father, Arturo Aldunate Phillips, a respected engineer, science writer and man of letters who won Chile's national literary prize in 1976. Aldunate Phillips encouraged his daughter's intellectual and literary interests and wrote the prologue for Angélica y el delfín.

Although Aldunate was occasionally profiled and her books reviewed in the Chilean press, her work has only recently come to the attention of literary historians; significant scholarship is still lacking. Many of her genre stories were collected in 2011 as Cuentos de Elena Aldunate: La dama de la ciencia ficción ["Stories by Elena Aldunate: The Lady of Science Fiction"] (coll 2011), which includes three critical studies and a photo gallery. [AB]

see also: Chile.

María Elena Aldunate Bezanilla

born Santiago, Chile: 1 March 1925

died Chile: 2005




individual titles

  • Juana y la cibernética ["Juana and Cybernetics"] (Santiago, Chile: Arancibia Hnos., 1963) [chap: pb/]
  • El señor de las mariposas ["Lord of the Butterflies"] (Santiago, Chile: Zig-Zag, 1967) [coll: pb/]
  • Del cosmos las quieren vírgenes ["The Cosmos Wants Them Virginal"] (Santiago, Chile: Zig-Zag, 1977) [pb/]
  • Angélica y el delfín ["Angélica and the Dolphin"] (Santiago, Chile: Aconcagua, 1977) [coll: pb/]
  • "Ela y los terrícolas" ["Ela and the Earthlings"] in Tres veces siete (Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Andrómeda, 1984) edited by Maité Allamand et al [anth: binding unknown/]
  • "El ingenio" ["Ingenuity"] in Tres veces siete edited by Maité Allamand et al (Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Andrómeda, 1984) [anth: binding unknown/]
  • Cuentos de Elena Aldunate: La dama de la ciencia ficción (Santiago, Chile: Editorial Cuarto Propio, 2011) [coll: edited by Macarena C Cortés and Jaque H Javiera: pb/]

about the author

  • Barbara Loach. "María Elena Aldunate" in Escritoras chilenas, v. 3. (Santiago, Chile: Editorial Cuarto Propio, 2011) edited by Patricia Rubio. [nonfiction: anth: pp341-342: binding unknown/]
  • Mercedes Guijarro-Crouch. "Elena Aldunate" in Latin American Science Fiction Writers: An A-to-Z Guide (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2004) edited by Darrell B Lockhart [nonfiction: anth: pp13-16: hb/nonpictorial]


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