The infrarrealista movement constituted a neo-avant-garde literary community that emerged in Mexico City in the 1970s. As the prefix “infra implies, the group’s members were interested in mining the possibilities of a hidden, grittier Mexican reality–one largely disregarded by what they viewed as elitist, state-sponsored modes of writing. They defined themselves, in fact, as an alternative to those very modes of writing.

The two most famous writers to emerge from the group were Chilean-born Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003), who would go on to be an international publishing phenomenon, and Mexican Mario Santiago Papasquiaro (1953-1998), a poet’s poet whose work, while still largely unknown among English-language readers, is highly regarded in certain circles in Mexico and throughout Latin America, particularly by younger generations of antiestablishment poets. He is the model for the character “Ulises Lima” in Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives. His key 1975 Infrarealist Manifesto, long overshadowed by Bolaño’s concurrent call to arms, “Leave Everything, Once Again,” is published here in English for the first time.

The texts included below evidence the group’s youthful energy, its rebellious streak and its voracious intellectual appetite to redefine its relationship with the history of ideas. In Bolaño’s “Imitation of Verlaine” we see a particularly unique vision of the lived material reality of Mexico City. The infras were non-academic in their method of inquiry, and their desire for new ways of knowing, new ways of seeing and new ways of writing is on full display in Mario Santiago’s “Infrarealist Manifesto” and his poem “Dead End.” Following Ginsberg’s maxim of “first thought, best thought,” Mario Santiago improvised his writing on just about any surface up to the task. His obsession with writing in the margins of his own books and those of others has become legendary. In fact, Mario Santiago’s tendency to write on any scrap of paper at his disposal, be it a napkin or the margins of a book that belonged to somebody else, is in some ways indicative of the infrarrealista attempt to bridge the gap between art and life.

– John Burns


Roberto Bolaño

Imitation of Verlaine

The infinitely silent night of Mexico City

opens its mouth and an 18-year-old kid leans again

against its streets, observing, unblinking, the necklaces and

murders, old newspapers and

car crashes, which similar to an audience

surround the waltzing hall, its ambiguous borders, where he

dressed in jeans and white shirt,

greets once more a bright-eyed girl.

And the sad wineglasses pass from hand to hand along the lengthy table

of the nostalgic conversations of the unemployed:

nights spent at a VIPs or Chinese restaurant, observing

the transparent candles that angels extinguish (through

that murmur he senses the contours of far-off voices)

when the right words for greeting one another

were picked from among the many shining signs.

A certain elegance in the gestures of sleepwalkers

in their blank, silent and speedy way of loving

which the boy hopes to study before he dies.

Mario Santiago

Dead End

Dead end / help us

to broaden our destinies

You such a looked-down-upon

cave/ desert/ sharp-edged metropolis

arid dairy farm/ slicing ice floe

bridge prolonged by a gas

that all of a sudden pulverizes

the unfindable four-leaf clovers

which provide oxygen and nourishment and lend their wings

to your wounded lungs / to the kangaroo hooves

                                              with which your banks advance

Dead end

pirate plank

tiger lunge

transpiration among fog

LSD slipping away

face where we see drinking

sucking the life

from the most nomadic species

of our fiery trees

Dead end

voice of the restless

song of the difficult

screen of cherry trees

that crossdressers pick to make faces

Injection of “Enough already!”

papyrus of  signs

to which only imbeciles

won’t surrender their gaze

Cradle of mutiny

Incubator of orgasms

carnivorous hammock

in which  I meditate the jazz juices

which will have me out fresher

brighter/ from my next fires

Apparently you’ve opted to turn your back on us

To cordon off our neck muscles

to shred up our rifles

to play ghost banquet with us

But what is certain in this crossword

of shaky barricades

unmade beds

uncertain rendezvous

with the unknown intrauterine

But what is certain in this crossword

is that the poet’s tongue visits you

the sweat of the guerrilla penetrates you/ to the eyes

the electrified fetuses of still unsatisfied desire

dance with your vertebrae

forge your piccolos

they light their incense in your pelvis

While you smile at them and chat

you give them fuel/ vibratory soma

climbing teeth you yank out of yourself

& now you can consider yourself

a partner: an accomplice: little infrarealist brother of ours

Let’s cross, limping/ hair messed up/ or singing

the dusty chalks of this line

Dead end

hitchhiking myself
Your left thigh: sickness

your right thigh: medicine

At the hour when they close their box offices

the night clubs & circuses

The moment when aspirin sales plummet

                            famed consoling hexameters

then you appear

on the way to tattoo us under your skin

the first scratch of our most obsessive self portrait

& now we even whistle at you between dreams

& we’d rather go out with you & with zero passports

along these streets / boulevards of mold

milky off streets/ straight shots to the amber hemorrhaging

Dead end

tell us with 1 eye

pinwheeling 1 eyelash

where should we shoot

smoothly/ feverishly

our last icepickgaze

our last cartridges

whirlwinds of clear life & fresh semen

We are dead to normality

we are inexistent t military logistics

to the chilly waters of stockmarket calculations

our scales/ our helices

            are phantasmagorical tooth roots

irresistible coagulates of a shining

 that claims to deny us with gunshots

But you know full well

that way inside you

we caress and sample your mouthful

we rip apart forever

the lightless rugs of the horoscope

Dead end

Dead end live end

partner: accomplice: little infrarealist brother of ours.