Bolaño, Roberto (1953–2003)

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Bolaño, Roberto (1953–2003)

The writer Roberto Bolaño, born in Santiago de Chile, led a rather nomadic existence. At fifteen he was living in Mexico, where he began to work as a journalist and became a Trotskyite. In 1973 he returned to Chile in time to witness the military coup. He signed up with the resistance and ended up a prisoner. Some childhood friends who had become policemen recognized him and managed to get him out of jail after a week. He then went to El Salvador, and in 1977 he moved to Spain, where he worked at a variety of jobs—dishwasher, waiter, night watchman, garbage collector, stevedore, and grape harvester. In the 1980s, having won several literary competitions, he was finally able to support himself as a writer. He published La pista de hielo (The ice rink) in 1993 and La literatura nazi en América (Nazi literature in the Americas) in 1996; his novel Los detectives salvajes (The Savage Detectives), published in 1999, won the Herralde and Rómulo Gallegos awards.

His fame increased with works such as Monsieur Pain (1999), Nocturno de Chile (2000; By Night in Chile), Putas asesinas (2001; Murdering whores), Amberes (2002; Ambers), El gaucho insufrible (2003; The insufferable gaucho), and above all, 2666, a novel of more than a thousand pages that he was still finishing at the time of his death (in Spain, of a liver disorder) and that is considered his masterpiece. Through his powerful prose style, his knowledge of world literature, his masterful ability to keep the reader in suspense, the originality of his themes, and his potent sense of humor, Bolaño earned the admiration of readers and critics, many of whom regard him as the most important writer of his generation.

See alsoChile: The Twentieth Century; Literature: Spanish America.


Works by the Author Available in English

Amulet. Translated by Chris Andrews. New York: New Directions, 2006.

By Night in Chile. Translated by Chris Andrews. New York: New Directions, 2003.

Distant Star. Translated by Chris Andrews. New York: New Directions, 2004.

Last Evenings on Earth. Translated by Chris Andrews. New York: New Directions, 2006.

The Savage Detectives. Translated by Natasha Wimmer. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

Works on the Author

Corral, Will H. "Portrait of the Writer as Nobel Savage." World Literature Today 80, no. 6 (2006): 47-50.

Siddhartha, Deb. "The Wandering Years: Roberto Bolano's Nomadic Fiction." Harper's Magazine 314 (April 2007): 99-105.

Zalewski, Daniel. "Vagabonds." New Yorker (March 26, 2007): 84-89.

                                    Angel Esteban