Roberto Arlt was born in Buenos Aires in 1900, the son of a Prussian immigrant from Poznán, Poland. Brought up in the city's crowded tenement houses – the same tenements which feature in The Seven Madmen – Arlt had a deeply unhappy childhood and left home at the age of sixteen. As a journalist, Arlt described the rich and vivid life of Buenos Aires; as an inventor, he patented a method to prevent ladders in women's stockings. Arlt died suddenly of a heart attack in Buenos Aires in 1942. He was the author of the novels The Mad Toy, The Flamethrowers, Love the Enchanter and several plays.