Roberto Arlt Biography

Roberto Emilio Godofredo Arlt (April 26, 1900 – July 26, 1942).


Best known as Roberto Arlt was a writer, novelist, Storyteller, Journalist and Playwright of Argentine origin, listed by critics as the first modern writer in his country.

His works place the emphasis on characters and scenarios of the margin, becoming a true testimony of the immigrant and poor families of Buenos Aires that he had to live, while setting a guideline in the use of lunfardo in the literature of Bonaerense.


Even though at the time he wasn´t recognized, in recent decades he has become a mandatory reference reading for writers. Famous modern writers, including Guillermo Saccomanno, Roberto Bolaño, Julio Cortázar and Ricardo Piglia have praised Arlt’s work, while pointing to it as a direct influence of his corresponding works.

Early life

Roberto Arlt was born on April 26, 1900 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, according to his birth certificate, which rests in the Civil Registry, although during his lifetime the writer was never clear with his birthday, telling on occasion that he had been born on the day  April 2 and in others that his arrival in the world had occurred on April 6.

Arlt belonged to a family of very poor European immigrants, who settled in the Flores neighborhood of the capital of The Porteña. His father, of Prussian descent, was karl Arlt, while his mother Ekatherine Iostraibitzer had been born in Austria.

Roberto then grew up among the streets of the poorest area of the city, accompanied by the sounds of the lunfardo, marginal dialect, derived from the words and idioms used by the different immigrants, and who warmed in tango and popular Buenoserense speech.

Beginnings as a writer

He began his first studies at a school in the city, from which he was expelled at the age of eight, for misconduct, abandoning formal education and opting for self-taught training. It was also used in various trades, including mechanics, welder, brick factory manager, painter, library assistant and journalist.

With talent and vocation for writing, Roberto Arlt wrote in 1926, at the age of twenty-six, his first novel to which he titled The Rabid Toy.

Three years later, his novel The Seven Fools (1929) as well as his continuation The Flamethrowers (1931) considered today must-read the new generations of writers and writers, interested in Argentine literature, would come to light.

The 1930s also mark in Arlt his facet as a storyteller, writing some of his stories, among which are The Jorobadite (1933) and The Terrible Journey, which have become part of Southern literature.

Career as a Playwright

Also during this decade he dabbled in The Dramaturgy, a field to which he dedicates himself the rest of his life. Arlt is considered the direct ancestor of social theater in Argentina, for his works that address topics and characters of the reality that was lived in his day.

He had the opportunity to present his works at the Teatro del Pueblo, belonging to the independent theater circuit in Buenos Aires. Arlt innovated in this genre, leaving behind the realism that until now had prevailed in the scene, to use resources such as unfolding.

His theme and theatrical resources also make him an immediate antedent of existentialism and the theater of absurdity in his country. However, it failed on the commercial circuit of the Theatre of Bonaerense. Among the works of his authorship that have been mounted by several theater directors are Three Hundred Million (1932); Saverio, the Cruel (1936) and The Desert Island (1938).

Journalism and final years

Also, during these years, he would venture into the journalistic office, where he was noted for his columns Etchings of Buenos Aires, written between 1928 and 1933, in which he draws, through his words, characters and landscapes of the city of Buenos Aires. Likewise, during his trip to Europe, in 1935, where he had the opportunity to visit Spain and Morocco, he wrote his Spanish Etchings.

He also covered the source of events in one of the local diaries, which for some critics served even more to nurture his feather turned to edge characters. Finally, on July 26, 1942, Roberto Arlt died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from cardiac arrest.

According to his biographers his body was cremated and his ashes released into the Paraná River. In his honor, the newspaper El Mundo published his last etching, entitled “A Landscape in the Clouds”.

Major works

Among his main literary works are his novels: The Rabid Toy (1926); The Seven Fools (1929); Flamethrowers (1931); The Witch Love (1932). As well as his short stories The Jorobadito (1933); Terrible Journey (1941); The Gorilla Breeder (1951); Return (1972) and Almost Perfect Crime (1940). Among his plays are The Humiliated (1930), based on a chapter of The Seven MadMen); Three hundred million (1932); Saverio, the Cruel (1936); The Ghost Maker (1936); Africa (1938); The Desert Island (1938); Fierce Separation (1938); The Iron Feast (1940); Proof of Love (1947); Saverio the Cruel (1950); The desert enters the city (1952). Works that join his numerous journalistic columns, known as his Porteñas Etchings (1933) and Spanish Etchings (1936).

Image source: taringa.net

Roberto Arlt Biography
Source: Education  
August 14, 2019


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