Roberto Bolaño was born Roberto Bolaño Ávalos on April 28, 1953, in Santiago, Chile. His father was a truck driver and amateur boxer, and his mother was a mathematics teacher. The family lived in a series of small cities in south-central Chile before moving to Mexico City, Mexico, in 1968.
Bolaño thrived in the Mexican capital, reading voraciously and eclectically, and he dropped out of school to immerse himself in political and literary culture. He was especially devoted to poetry. Very much in the spirit of the hippie era, he joined a Mexican communist group and traveled to El Salvador to take part in the leftist ferment there. In 1973, he returned to Chile to support the Socialist government of President Salvador Allende. Not long afterward, General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte staged a coup. Bolaño was briefly placed under arrest.
In 1974, Bolaño was again in Mexico City, where he cofounded the reactionary literary movement infrarealism, which was influenced by Dadaism and the French Surrealist poet André Breton. Intent upon disrupting the staid establishment poetry of the era, Bolaño and his friends soon became notorious for disrupting poetry readings by shouting out their own poetry from the audience.
Infrarealism, however, proved short-lived. The movement’s brief life, and a failed romance, led Bolaño to leave Mexico in 1977. After a year traveling through France, Spain, and North Africa, he settled for a while in...
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