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Roberto Bolaño Ávalos (April 28, 1953 – January 15, 2003) was a Chilean novelist, short-story writer, essayist and poet. He originally wrote poetry, but changed to write fiction for money. After all, he had a family to feed. Despite this, he continued to think of himself primarily as a poet. He had a kind of tendency of taking an Ensemble Dark Horse from one book (or sometimes just a minor character) and writing a story around that character.

Even though he was from Chile, he spent very little time in the country and lived in Spain. He was also very critical of the writers in Chile, particularly Isabel Allende, decrying their (perceived) lack of talent. He was also a vocal opponent of the idea that it was possible for art to be apolitical, and this likely fed into his distaste for the Chilean literary establishment, whom he felt to have been deferential to the country's authoritarian government. (Bolaño himself was a committed leftist.) One of the few Latin American authors Bolaño expressed much praise for was Jorge Luis Borges.

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Bolaño died in 2003 of liver failure. It had been rumoured that he had suffered from opiate addiction at a younger age, but his widow has refuted this. Despite having been dead for sixteen years, he is still publishing books. That shows you how prolific he was. Many of his published works have yet to be published in English, presumably because bringing them all out at once would run the risk of over-saturating the market with new (in English) Bolaño's works. New works are still being discovered posthumously and published in Spanish, too; The Spirit of Science Fiction had its original Spanish-language publication in 2016.

Do not confuse with Roberto Gómez Bolaños, also known as Chespirito.


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Novels and novellas written by Bolaño with their own pages here:

  • Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic (co-written with A. G. Porta) (1984)
  • Monsieur Pain (1984) (original title is The Paths of Elephants but was reissued in 1999 as the current title)
  • The Skating Rink (1993)
  • Nazi Literature in the Americas (1996)
  • Distant Star (1996)
  • The Savage Detectives (1998)
  • Amulet (1999)
  • By Night in Chile (2000)
  • Antwerp (2002)
  • A Little Lumpen Novelita (2002)
  • 2666 (2004)
  • The Third Reich (2010)
  • Woes of the True Policeman (2011)
  • The Spirit of Science Fiction (2016)
  • Cowboy Graves (2017)

Tropes in the works of Roberto Bolaño:

  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: In “Police Rat”, Pepe worries because since a rat dared to kill another rat, soon it will become commonplace.
  • Author Appeal:
    • Bolaño likes:
      • Poetry, sex and reading.
    • He dislikes:
      • Fascism, misogyny, genocide and faker.
  • Author Avatar: Arturo Belano, who share a lot of bibliographic details with Bolaño.
    • It can be said that much—if not all—of Bolaño’s fictions, beside poems, was autobiographical in many ways.
  • Author Tract: “Literature + Illness = Illness”, “The Myths of Cthulhu”.
  • Bookworm: He even stoled books when he was a child because of being poor.
  • Crapsack World: Women in 2666’s Santa Teresa are pretty much constantly at risk of being raped and murdered. Given that Santa Teresa is a stand-in for Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where literally thousands of women have been murdered since 1993, this is pretty much a Foregone Conclusion. ("The Part About the Crimes" [see Overly Long Gag below] goes into this in depth).
  • Doorstopper: 2666 clocks in at well over 1000 pages. Bolaño had planned another 200 pages before suffering he Died During Production. The Savage Detectives is also a doorstopper, though it’s not as long as 2666.
  • Expy: According to this review, Father Urrutia Lacroix of By Night in Chile is modelled on the priest and right-wing literary critic José Miguel Ibañez Langlois.
  • Gainax Ending: If the book doesn’t have No Ending, it will probably have this. Sometimes they have both.
  • Meaningful Name: Plenty. Or was it? One example was Auxilio Lacouture (her name is Spanish for “help”).
  • The Quest: Most of his books deal with one or more characters traveling in search of something (a place, a person, sometimes they don't even know what they’re looking for). The success rate is... not so good.
  • Real-Time Strategy: The main character of The Third Reich is a huge player of wargames, a hobby shared by the author too.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: By Night in Chile is this to other Chilean writers during the Pinochet years.
  • Reclusive Artist: In-Universe, Benno von Archimboldi in 2666.
  • Spin-Offspring: “Police Rat” has as main character Pepe the Cop, niece of Josephine the Singer.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Deconstructed in Nazi Literature in the Americas. Nazis and Neo-Nazis tend to appear on his books, whether literally (Distant Star, 2666) or metaphorically (The Third Reich).
  • The 'Verse: Several characters from the previous work was scattered throughout his other work. Thus it was revealed that all of his work exist in the same universe.
  • Wall of Text: Done deliberately in By Night in Chile. The overwhelming majority of the novella is a single paragraph. The second paragraph is a single sentence. Bolaño does this in some of his other novels as well, though not to the same extent. For example some paragraphs in 2666 go on for several pages.

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