Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Spanish & Portuguese

First Advisor

Peter Elmore

Second Advisor

Juan Pablo Dabove

Third Advisor

Leila Gómez


This dissertation studies the motif of the circle of artists in six Spanish American novels of the 20th century: "Los siete locos" (1929)/"Los lanzallamas" (1931) by Roberto Arlt, "Adán Buenosayres" (1948) by Leopoldo Marechal, "Rayuela" (1963) by Julio Cortázar, "Tres tristes tigres" (1967) by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, "Palinuro de México" (1978) by Fernando del Paso, and "Los detectives salvajes" (1995) by Roberto Bolaño. These novels showcase a collective protagonist: a small and subversive group of artists and intellectuals who embrace a revolutionary plan. Rebellious and (post)avangardist in their nature, their goal is to transform life into art by founding ephemeral communities that harmonize ethics and aesthetics. These communities are fugitive and never solidify into long-lasting institutions; on the contrary, they vanish in intense events of communion, leaving behind a paradoxical legacy of transience. The dissertation includes one introduction and three chapters. The second chapter focuses on Buenos Aires in the 1920s, a time of demographic expansion and growth of a culture industry. Devoted to Roberto Arlt, the first section of chapter two studies a sui generis circle of artists: the Astrologer's secret society. The second section examines "Adán Buenosayres", a nostalgic and satyric review of the adventures of the bohemian martinfierristas. Chapter three offers a reading of two widely read texts identified with the Boom of the Latin American novel. The first section is a re-reading of "Rayuela" from the perspective of the portrayal of the circle of artists. The second section selects a different group of friends, all of them linked to Havana's night world of the 1950s: the group that protagonizes "Tres tristes tigres". The final chapter explores the fate of the circle of artists in the late 20th century. In "Palinuro de México" the circle, first composed by avant-gardist medical students, eventually blends into the national community when confronted with state violence in the Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968. The last novel this thesis analyzes is "Los detectives salvajes" by Roberto Bolaño. In the midst of the commodification of Hispanic American literature, Bolaño's poet detectives rekindle the radical spirit of youth and keep the circle of artists alive.