Kosmopolis 2013

Bolaño Archive. 1977- 2003

In 2013, CCCB hosts the exhibition Bolaño Archive. 1977-2003, an homage to the excepcional chilean writer, dead in 2003. The exhibition coincides with the sixth edition of Kosmopolis. The amplified Literature Fest.

The project is built around three interconnecting themes, which express some of the more constant threads that weave throughout the creative universe of the author of The Savage Detectives. The first sets out a specific geography of three cities (Barcelona, Girona and Blanes), where the bulk of Roberto Bolaño’s work was written; the second offers his creative timeline, when the books were written, completing and redefining the publishing timeline; and the third recreates his life story, giving an idea of the writer’s existential landscape: his day to day experience, provisional jobs and lifestyle in a more intimate light.

The layout of the exhibition is based on these thematic centres, which are further developed through a foreword, a vital reference to the Mexican years, and three specific periods:

1. The unknown university. Barcelona 1977-1980

2. Inside the kaleidoscope. Girona 1981-1985

3. The visitor from the future. Blanes 1985-2003

The exhibition ends with an afterword in which Bolaño’s influence on 21st century literature is analysed, through translations into 35 languages and the growing amount of academic research being done.

The visit to the exhibition explores the idea of detective work. The reader-visitor is the detective who is faced with a series of tests and clues, all in a spirit of humour and irony. The formalization of the layout revolves around the metaphor of the kaleidoscope, a reference used by the writer in various passages in his books: the same scene with different characters, the same characters in different scenes.

But what sets the exhibition apart, over and above its thematic approach, innovative museographic elements and dialogue with the visitor, is the presentation of unpublished material from the archives of the Roberto Bolaño estate. Novels, short stories, poems, miscellaneous texts and notebooks, correspondence, family photographs, magazines and fanzines, his personal library, a plethora of interviews, strategy board games and other valuable materials that provide greater insight into Bolaño’s creative universe and help produce a freer, more prolific interpretation of his work.

ROBERTO BOLAÑO (Santiago de Chile, 1953 - Barcelona, 2003)

1953. Roberto Bolaño Ávalos was born on 28 April in Santiago de Chile, to Victoria Ávalos Flores, a teacher, and León Bolaño Carné, a truck driver. He spent his childhood in Viña del Mar, Quilpué, Cauquenes and Los Angeles.

1968. The family moved to Mexico City, where the writer spent the best years of his adolescence. At the age of 15, he decided to leave school and devote himself to reading and his ambition to be a writer.

1973. He took a long trip around Latin America, arriving in Chile with the idea of supporting the government of Salvador Allende, in the months leading up to Pinochet’s coup. He was arrested on a trip to Concepción but released after eight days thanks to a chance meeting at the detention centre with two police officers he had been at school with.

1975. Back in Mexico City, he set up the Infra-realist Movement with Mario Santiago, Bruno Montané and other Mexican poets.

1976. Public reading in Gandhi bookstore of the first infra-realist manifesto, “Déjenlo todo nuevamente” (Give it all up again), written entirely by Bolaño. His first book of poems, Reinventar el amor (Reinventing love), was published. He prepared an anthology of young Latin American poets, Muchachos desnudos bajo el arcoíris de fuego (Naked youngsters under the rainbow of fire), which was published later, in 1979, when he was living in Barcelona.

1977. Arrival in Barcelona. After a brief period in an apartment on Gran Via, he rented a studio in Carrer Tallers. These were the years of the Spanish Transition to democracy. This period saw the start of his intense friendship with Antoni García Porta, with whom he was to write Consejos de un discípulo de Morrison a un fanático de Joyce (Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic), 1984 Ámbito Literary Prize for Narrative and a work that marked Bolaño’s European publishing debut as a novelist.

1980. He moved to Girona, the city where his sister, Salomé, and brother-in-law lived. In the summer, he worked as a night watchman at the Estrella de Mar campsite in Castelldefels.

1981. He met Carolina López, whom he married in 1985.

1983. He won third prize in the 2nd Valencia City Council Alfambra Prize with the short story “El contorno del ojo” (Around the eye). The Argentine writer Antonio Di Benedetto won second prize. This coincidence gave rise to the short story “Sensini”, which won the City of San Sebastian Literary Prize in 1997.

1985. He moved to Blanes, where his mother had opened a jewellery shop. Carolina López started working for the town council, prompting the couple to settle there.

1990. Birth of their son, Lautaro.

1992. He was diagnosed with a serious liver disease. In the same year, he won the Rafael Morales poetry prize of Talavera de la Reina Council (Toledo) for “Fragments” from La Universidad Desconocida (The Unknown University), and the City of Toledo Prize for the novel La senda de los elefantes, published years later with the title Monsieur Pain.

1993. Publication of La pista de hielo (The Skating Rink), winner of the 1992 Alcalá de Henares Narrative Prize.

1994. He won the City of Irún Literary Prize with Los perros románticos (The Romantic Dogs). Thereafter, he devoted himself exclusively to literature, leaving behind his numerous extra-literary jobs (dish-washer, camp site guard, jewellery salesman, etc.).

1996. Publication of La literatura nazi en América (Nazi literature in the Americas) and Estrella distante (Distant Star). After the publication of these works, Bolaño presented his editor with a book a year.

1997. Publication of the volume of short stories Llamadas telefónicas (Phone Calls), which won the Santiago de Chile Municipal Prize.

1998. Publication of Los detectives salvajes (The Savage Detectives), winner of the 16th Herralde Novel Prize (1998) and the 11th Rómulo Gallegos Prize (1999). He returned to Chile after over 25 years.

2001. Birth of his daughter, Alexandra. Bolaño was always highly protective of his children, “my only homeland”. He dedicated many of his books to them and to Carolina López.

2003. He died on 14 July. A few days later, as he had expressly requested, his ashes were scattered in the Bay of Blanes.

2004. Posthumous publication of 2666, his culminating work, winner of several prizes: Salambó (Barcelona), Ciutat de Barcelona, Municipal de Literatura de Santiago de Chile, Fundación José Manuel Lara (2005), Altazor (2005) and National Book Critics Circle Award (New York, 2008).

Other of Bolaño’s texts were later published: Entre paréntesis (2004, Between Parentheses), La Universidad Desconocida (2007, The Unknown University), El secreto del mal (2007, The Secret of Evil), El Tercer Reich (2010, The Third Reich) and Los sinsabores del verdadero policía (2011, Woes of the True Policeman).


Practical information




Organised by

Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona


Instituto Cervantes

Casa del Lector