Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Meeting with Enrique Lihn [and Victor Jara]-Roberto Bolaño

I. What ideas of this writer or filmmaker appeal to you the most? Why?

I’m particularly interested in how Roberto Bolaño uses autofiction (a fictional account with autobiographical elements; Bolaño a Lihn were indeed pen pals) to create a dream or rather a nightmare in which Bolaño, Enrique Lihn, and Victor Jara cohabitate the same city, Santiago. This encounter allows Bolaño to elaborate on the aftermath and even afterlives of the Pinochet coup and long regime in Chile (Sep 11, 1973 – Mar 11, 1990). Just like a dream uncovers repressed memories and latent meanings, for Bolaño, the fascist Pinochet era lingers in Santiago for lack of accountability. The dead and the circumstances of repression and violence reappear destabilizing everyday life.

Who are they?

Roberto Bolaño

Enrique Lihn was a Chilean poet, playwright, and novelist. Born in 1929 in Santiago, Chile, Lihn aspired to be a painter, but after a failed attempt during university, he abandoned that dream to pursue writing. His work revolved around his contempt for the contemporary dictatorship as Chile was governed by a military junta. Works layered with social, political, and religious commentary are common throughout Lihn’s canon.

Víctor Jara was a Chilean teacher, theater director, poet, singer-songwriter, and socialist political activist tortured and killed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The contrast between the themes of his songs—which focused on love, peace, and social justice—and the brutal way in which he was murdered transformed Jara into a potent symbol of the struggle for human rights and justice for those killed during the Pinochet regime.

. Analyze one specific section by your chosen author that best communicates what you identified in the question above.

After reading the last section of the story (199) and reflecting on the documentary Massacre at the Stadium, why do you think Bolaño talks about a city inhabited by the dead.

What is implied by the observations regarding facades of another time, “a terrible time that endured for no reason other than sheer inertia”? What is the political argument behind this phrase?

III. Discuss how the structure of the text and its linguistic choices (style) enhance the narrative goals of the author.

Infrarealist Poetics

Stylistically, Bolaño’s “Meting with Enrique Lihn” recuperates some of the tenets of the Infrarealist literary movement that Bolaño co-founded with other poets in Mexico during the mid-70s. The infrarealists thought of the poet as an adventurer, visionary, outsider, and intellectual provocateur.

They believe in poetry that could incorporate a mixture of languages and genres into the text as a way of representing the full integration of the poet into all areas of life, including the unconscious. For them, there are invisible levels of reality that need to be uncovered by the poet/writer.

“A new lyricism that’s beginning to grow in Latin America sustains itself in ways that never cease to amaze us. The entrance to the work is the entrance to adventure: the poem as a journey and the poet as a hero who reveals heroes.”

Manifesto of Infrarealism

Answer on an Index Card

Do you see some of these ideas in the short story? Explain.

How Lihn’s notion of war complements Bolaño’s dreamscape?

Six Solitudes

IV. Can you show any analogy/relationship between what the author is saying and your personal experience? If this is not the case, can you establish any connection to other works you have read/heard/seen (books, comics, plays, paintings, photographs, podcasts, music, movies, series, documentaries, etc.)?

Film Noir and Bolaño


How Bolaño constructs his dream as the journey of a Film Noir (anti) hero?

How Bolaño integrates Film Noir aesthetics and narrative tropes into his nightmarish representation of Lihn and Jara? 191-2; 196-7

Asynchronous Blog Post on Bolaño, Lihn, and Massacre at the Stadium

Asynchronous Blog Post


1. Watch the Netflix documentary Massacre at The Stadium  (Bent Jorgen Perlmutt, 2019).

2. Read Roberto Bolaño’s short story “Meeting with Enrique Lihn” and the poem “Six Solitudes” by Enrique Lihn.

3. Pick ONE of the following options and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 1/30 before the class. 200-words minimum.


According to the documentary, why singer-songwriter Victor Jara was considered an enemy of Augusto Pinochet’s right-wing military regime? Why do you think Bolaño brings a distorted Jara into his story? How this ghostly figure fits into Bolaño’s nightmarish narrative?


In “Meeting with Enrique Lihn” Roberto Bolaño says that Chile and its capital Santiago “once resemble hell, a resemblance that, in some subterranean layer of the real city and the imaginary city, will forever remain” (191). Explain this quote by bringing examples from the documentary Massacre at the Stadium.


After reading these two sections from “Six Solitudes” by Enrique Lihn discuss how Bolaño builds the dream atmosphere of his short story using Lihn’s poetic style and imagery.

Six Solitudes


The unending loneliness from which others drink
at happy hour
is not my cup, but my grave. I bring it to my lips
and flail within it till I slip from sight
into its morbid waves.
Loneliness for me is not a caged bird but a monster,
as if I were living with an insane asylum.

Everyone’s waiting for war but me.
The housewife is waiting for war
with the invading rats.
Kids are waiting for the future,
for the war ahead.
Men walk the warpath
with banners and slogans.
All but me, who am waiting for what?
Waiting for poetry.
Waiting for nothing.


Initial Chat with a Partner

Were you born in the US, the Caribbean, or Latin America? Where? Did you migrate to New York? When? From where? Where is your ancestral land? Do you still have contact with it? Do you belong to a diasporic community here in NYC? Where is home for you?

Group Discussion: Debriefing on the Syllabus

What struck your attention? What interested you the most about it? What question(s) do you have? Do you recognize any of the authors and sources that we are going to discuss? Do you usually read fiction or watch films from Latin America and the Caribbean? If that is the case, what was the last thing you watched or read from the region?

Short Analytical Exercise

How does this short cinematic text challenge borders and national constructs?

Compare the protagonist and discuss their respective crisis. Elaborate on their survival mechanism and their ways of envisioning futures.

How the film narrates contrasting diasporic realities while creating spaces for self-reliance and hope.