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Baldomero Lillo

Baldomero Lillo

Chile (1867-1923)

University of Chile, http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Baldomero_Lillo.jpeg

Baldomero Lillo was born in Lota, a miner town in the south of Chile, on january 6, 1867. His parents were José Nazario Lillo Mendoza and Mercedes Figueroa. He was the second of eight children and like him, Samuel (1869), Fernando (1870) and Emilio (1871) had literary aspirations.

His father, foreman and group chief in the coal mines in the area, strongly influenced him in the beginning of his life: it is to him who is credited the future interest in literature of Baldomero and the writing matters of the mine life. After José Nazario's death and due to economical problems, Lillo had to leave his studies and take a place as assistant in one of the mining company's local stores, job that he kept until the end of his secondary studies. Thanks to the spare time at work, he became a passionate reader.

In 1898 the author moved out to Santiago to hold some minor jobs. Through his brother Samuel, Lillo obtained a position as a clerk at the University of Chile, and his stay in the city allowed him to get in touch with the intellectual circles. He published the short stories volumes Sub terra (1904) and Sub sole (1907) –both in our Colección 800. Influenced by Émile Zola, the french naturalism and most of the russian authors of 19th century including Dostoyevsky, Lillo would become the famous pioneer of the so-called literature of denunciation, in which he showed his interest in recurrent themes about mining and marginalized social sectors. The most usual plots in Lillo's work are the life of the coal miner, the reality of fishermen, hunting, countryside life, among others.

In 1904 took place in a short story contest by the newspaper El Mercurio, using the pseudonym 'Danko', in which his tale 'Sub sole' was awarded. The following year, founding Zig-Zag magazine, new short stories were published, with which he would begin to create Sub sole.

In 1909 he went to the north of Chile to research on the strike and massacre of saltpeter miners in the Santa María de Iquique school –massacre perpetrated in december 1907 by the chilean army, which let more than two thousand victims, among women, children and elder people– and started to write a novel that was unfinished, called La huelga (in english, The strike). Most of his texts from that period (between 1906 and 1907), were not published until 1942, several years after his death, in a compilation of twelve short stories named Relatos populares. In 1956 and 1963 were published El hallazgo y otros cuentos del mar y Pesquisa trágica, respectively.

Despite the brevity of his work, Baldomero Lillo appears as an author of great relevance in the chilean literary history for being one of the leaders of the social realism of that country. Many of his short stories are written in a surprising, direct language, which grabs the readers to get them closer to the characters' calamities and immerse them, as the characters do, in a dark world.

He continued his job at the University until 1917, year in which he was diagnosed with a cronic pulmonary tuberculosis, so he decided to retire. The incompleteness of La huelga is attributed to his health issues, which did not allowed him to do deep research on the saltpeter mining life in the chilean pampas. Lilo died on september 10, 1923 in San Bernardo.

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