Read the First Manifesto of Infrarealism in ENGLISH here.

Read it in SPANISH here.


From the New York Review of Books:

In 1974, the poet Mario Santiago brought a group of friends who’d been expelled from an UNAM poetry workshop—they’d tried to force the resignation of a poet-professor unwilling, or unable, to teach Spanish Golden Age poetry of the sixteenth century and classical poetic forms—to visit his friend Roberto Bolaño, who lived in an apartment in the center of town. At that meeting Bolaño came up with the idea of forming a poetry movement “against the official culture,” which he named the Movimiento Infrarrealista de Poesia. The Infrarealists’ obvious heroes were the Beats, Dadaists, maudits such as Rimbaud and Lautréamont (“the two absolute adolescent poets”), and also more obscure figures, such as their “adored Sophie Podolski,” a Belgian poet who’d committed suicide in 1974 at age twenty.

Their declared enemy was the poet and intellectual Octavio Paz, in their eyes the representative of Mexico’s “official culture,” the politically powerful gatekeeper to the Mexican literary establishment. Infrarealists interrupted Paz’s public readings with shouts and once, supposedly, threw wine on his shirt.

Bolaño’s Infrarealist manifesto is one of his earliest writings available to readers. Titled “Déjenlo Todo, Nuevamente” (meaning, “Leave Everything Behind, Again,” after a poem by André Breton), the manifesto is a free-associative, exuberant verbal torrent—”Dancing-club of Misery. Pepito Tequila sobbing his love for Lisa Underground…. Rimbaud, come home!” Rather than prescribing any particular aesthetic principles or commitments, it urges infrarrealistas to leave their narrow bookish circles, see the world, and find their rebel poetry in their own uncompromising lives. Some of its exhortations, such as the twice-repeated “The poem is a journey, and the poet is a hero who reveals heroes,” seem especially striking in light of Bolaño’s mature novels, which would repeatedly describe the fateful journeys of poets. In at least three of those novels, Distant Star, The Savage Detectives, and 2666, the central plot would involve a literal search by “detective” poets (or literary types) for mysterious or vanished poet-writers, some of them heroes, some villains.


There is little practical information on the movement aside from brief descriptions like this.  Perhaps the most illuminating insight that can be found through Bolaño’s semi-fictional novel The Savage Detectives, which in part is a self-deprecatory eulogy to the short-lived movement and the savagery of youth, poetry, violence and idealism.

In one comic passage, a character outlines the group’s activities after the disappearance of the fictional alter-egos of Mario Santiago and Roberto Bolaño:

Automatic writing, exquisite corpse, solo performances with no spectators, contraintes, two-handed writing, three-handed writing, masturbatory writing (we wrote with the right hand and masturbated with the left, or vice versa if we were left-handed), madrigals, poem-novels, sonnets always ending with the same word, three-word messages written on walls (“This is It,” “Laura, my love,” etc.), outrageous diaries, mail-poetry, projective verse, conversational poetry, antipoetry, Brazilian concrete poetry (written in Portuguese cribbed from the dictionary), poems in hard-boiled prose (detective stories told with great economy, the last verse revealing the solution or not), parables, fables, theater of the absurd, pop art, haikus, epigrams (actually imitations of or variations on Catullus, almost all by Moctezuma Rodríguez), desperado poetry (Western ballads), Georgian poetry, poetry of experience, beat poetry, apocryphal poems by bpNichol, John Giorno, John Cage. . . . We even put out a magazine . . . We kept moving . . . We kept moving . . . We did what we could . . . But nothing turned out right.


Here’s an excerpt from an interview from BOMB Magazine in Winter of 2002 with Carmen Boullosa:

CB: When we were young poets, teenagers, and shared the same city (Mexico City in the seventies), you were the leader of a group of poets, the Infrarealists, which you’ve mythologized in your novel, Los detectives salvajes. Tell us a little about what poetry meant for the Infrarealists, about the Mexico City of the Infrarealists.

Roberto Bolaño: Infrarealism was a kind of Dada á la Mexicana. At one point there were many people, not only poets, but also painters and especially loafers and hangers-on, who considered themselves Infrarealists. Actually there were only two members, Mario Santiago and me. We both went to Europe in 1977. One night, in Rosellón, France, at the Port Vendres train station (which is very close to Perpignan), after having suffered a few disastrous adventures, we decided that the movement, such as it was, had come to an end.



Carmen Boullosa also wrote a wonderful testimony about her young days with the Infrarealists in this 2007 article written for The Nation.

“The young Efrainite poets got around the city on foot, or by bus; they were iconoclastic and attended workshops; in bookstores they scrutinized, read and stole the merchandise; they carried satchels, had long hair and wore huarache sandals with soles made from car tires; they published here and there and spent hours in the downtown cafes, especially Café La Habana, and various seedy bars. The young Octavian poets criticized one another’s poems fiercely, in the same cafes as the Efrainites, at neighboring tables; they bought or stole books from the stores, carried satchels, had long hair and almost always wore sandals; they got around the city on foot, or by bus, or in their friends’ cars; and they published in the Octavian magazines and literary supplements.

Some of the Efrainites were belligerent and used to turn up at literary events to jeer, pass judgment and generally create havoc. This group (the protagonists of The Savage Detectives) called themselves the Infrarealists, and they were under the command of Bolaño, who, in 1976, wrote and was the sole signatory of the Infrarealist Manifesto, a text whose irreverence and verve were worthy of the Surrealists”


5 Responses to “Infrarealism”

  1. dasaroba said

    Thank you this was very informative :D Roberto Bolaño is my favorite poet

  2. InabaML said

    Thank you for sharing this history. The pictures are delightful. What a wonderful adventure and exciting phase of life, when all is possible and no doors have slammed shut. Ah, that Bolano would have lived to experience and guide us through all the phases of life- a treasure has been stolen from us never to be replaced. Who now will show us how to be alive?

  3. […] dictatorships and the most sinister political crimes and genocide in Latin America. Bolaño himself admired Jack Kerouac and the Beats, but those who imprisoned him in Chile in 1973 were the military […]

  4. […] Savage Detectives. This was a thinly veiled allusion to the group of poets who called themselves Infrarealists (whom Bolaño co-founded in Mexico City in the 1970s), but it also characterizes the most […]

  5. […] On Tuesday night in the Multiforo Alicia, only a short walk from where I’m staying in Roma Sur (Mexico City), I attended a poetry reading by several of the living Infrarrealistas (Infrarealists), a literary movement best known to contemporary readers from Roberto Bolaño’s Mexico City novels, Amulet and The Savage Detectives, where it appears as the “Visceral Realists.” I have briefly discussed the relevant Bolaño novels in previous posts, which contain some useful links. Here’s another one. […]

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