Roberto Bolaño Biography

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Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

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 Barcelona. He worked as an itinerant laborer in a variety of jobs—including salesman, night watchman, dock worker, and grape picker—and continued to write poetry.

In 1982, Bolaño married Carolina Lopez, a Catalonian, and settled in the resort town of Blanes on the Catalonian coast. In 1984, he published his first novel, Consejos de un discípulo de Morrison a un fanático de Joyce (advice of a disciple of Morrison to a Joyce fanatic). He and his wife had a son, Lautaro, in 1991 and later a daughter, Alexandra. To earn a living for his family, which he called his “only motherland,” Bolaño concentrated on writing fiction. He became a prolific writer, able to devote himself to the craft for long periods of time. By 1996, he was publishing at least one novel every year, as well as poems, essays, and newspaper columns.

Widely considered a major new writer, Bolaño remained a maverick, outspoken and often caustic. Nevertheless, his reputation steadily grew. At the same time, his health declined. Aware that he was dying, he rushed to complete his last novel to ensure financial security for his family. He passed away on July 15, 2003, in Barcelona. His novel 2666 was edited by his literary executor, Ignacio Echevarría, and published in 2004. In its original edition, the novel is more than eleven hundred pages long, and it became an immediate success. It was hailed by some critics as one of the most significant fictional works in a generation of Latin Americans.

Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Roberto Bolaño (boh-LAHN-yoh) Ávalos was born on April 28, 1953, in Santiago, Chile. His father was a truck driver and amateur boxer, his mother a mathematics teacher. Although dyslexic and nearsighted, Bolaño was an enthusiastic reader as a child. The family lived in a series of small cities in south central Chile before moving to Mexico City in 1968.

Bolaño thrived in the Mexican capital, reading voraciously and eclectically, and he dropped out of school to immerse himself in the political and literary culture. He was especially devoted to poetry. Very much in the spirit of the hippie era, Bolaño grew his hair long and had a permanently hungry look. He joined the Trotskyite faction of Mexican communism and traveled to El Salvador to take part in the leftist movements 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, and Bolaño worked as a courier in the resistance to the military regime. He was arrested and spent eight days in...

(The entire section is 1,404 words.)