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Roberto Arlt was an Argentine writer born in Buenos Aires on April 2, 1900. His father was Karl Arlt and his mother, Ekatherine Iobstraibitzer. His relationship with his father was stressful, as Karl Arlt was a very severe and austere man, by Arlt's own account, and the memory of his oppressive father would appear in several of his writings. For example, Remo Erdosain (a character at least partially based on Arlt's own life) often recalls his abusive father and how little if any support he would give him. After being expelled from school at the age of eight, Arlt became an autodidact and worked at all sorts of different odd jobs before landing a job on at a local newspaper: as clerk at a bookstore, apprentice to a tinsmith, painter, mechanic, welder, manager in a brick factory, and dock worker.
Arlt's second novel, the popular Los siete locos (The Seven Madmen) was rough, brutal, colloquial and surreal, a complete break from the polite, middle-class literature more typical of Argentine literature . Los lanzallamas (The Flame-Throwers) was the sequel, and these two novels together are thought by many to be his greatest work. What followed were a series of short stories and plays in which Arlt pursued his vision of bizarre, half-mad, alienated characters pursuing insane quests in a landscape of urban chaos.
During his lifetime, however, Arlt was best known for his "Aguafuertes" ("Etchings"), the result of his contributions as a columnist - between 1928 and 1943 - to the Buenos Aires daily "El Mundo". Arlt used these columns to comment, in his characteristically forthright and unpretentious style, on the peculiarities, hypocrisies, strangeness and beauty of everyday life in Argentina's capital. These articles included occasional exposes of public institutions, such as the juvenile justice system or the Public Health System. Between March and May 1930, Arlt wrote a series of "Aguafuertes" as a correspondent to "El Mundo" in Rio de Janeiro. In 1935 he spent nearly a year writing as he traveled throughout Spain and North Africa, on the eve of the Spanish Civil War. At the time of his death, Arlt was hoping to be sent to the United States as a correspondent.
Aynesworth, Michele Mckay
Profile Page for Roberto Arlt
El juguete rabioso
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