What is Infrarealism?

Infrarealism is a literary movement that emerged in the 1970s spearheaded by a group of young poets led by Roberto Bolaño and Mario Santiago. Infrarealists believe that reality is not as coherent as it seems and that nothing can be wholly understood. They believe that the world is mostly composed of “infrareal” things, the small and mundane things that we don’t pay attention to.

The word “infrarealism” was coined as a portmanteau of “infrastructure” and “surrealism”, to convey the idea that it is both infrastructural and surreal at the same time. It is a form of surrealism that focuses on what is beyond reality.

In terms of writing style, infrarealism is characterized by the portrayal of reality as something that is less than real and often unreal. This style tends to make use of surrealistic images and often contains themes of alienation, isolation, and loneliness.

An infrarealist is typically a writer who has experienced some type of extreme or difficult event in their lives, such as a near-death experience or a war-torn upbringing. They reject many traditional conventions, such as plot development or character development, for an emphasis on surface detail and associative thinking to evoke moods and textures.

Infrarealism as a movement emerged as a reaction to surrealism and as such, was not limited to literature. It is an artistic style that challenges the idea of “reality” and what is considered real. The style is characterized by its ambiguous nature and lack of strict rules, with some works having more of a fantasy feel than others.

Further Reading

“One-single-thing”: infrarealism and the art of everyday life by Cole Heinowitz, Chicago Review

Roberto Bolaño Interview by Carmen Boullosa, Bomb Magazine

A Dictionary of Criminous Thought: Roberto Bolaño’s Compendium of Nazi Collaborationist Writing by Joshua Cohen, The Forward

Who were the Infrarealists? by Paul Murufas, The Airship

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