Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolano (translated 2008 by Chris Andrews) is the forth novel by Bolano (1953 to 2003-Chile) I have read. I first read his Savage Detectives, then 2066, and most recently By Night in Chile. To me the English translations of his work is among the very few really important literary developments of the first decade of the 21st century. (I read these three books prior to the starting of my blog in July 2009. I have posted on two of his short stories that were published in The New Yorker.)
Nazi Literature in the Americas is a collection of biographies of purely imaginary literary figures. All of the authors were sympathizers with various forms of fascism, including the Nazis. The authors nearly all are quite dysfunctional. They go from those born into extreme wealth in the Argentine to those from the slums of the big Latin American cities down to members of prison gangs in the USA.
The style is kind of "dead pan" with Bolano giving us a series of outrageous biographies each one crazier than the one before it. There is also an hilarious section at the end of the book describing various periodicals in which the authors works were published. These imaginary publications range from the legendary The Fourth Reich in Argentina, The Charismatic Church of California Christians, and a publication of the Aryan Brotherhood, The Fabulous Adventures of the White Nation.
I loved this book. I thought some of the biographies were just too funny and flat out brilliant (but I grew up reading Mad Magazine and loved Borat so my tastes expand outside the bounds of normal "adult good taste".) This book kind of reminded me of Spike Lee's wonderful movie C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America in which he presents an account of what the USA would have been like had the south won the civil war and slavery never outlawed. I can imagine Voltaire thinking it was a work of genius and I can see Samuel Johnson finding it a waste of talent.
I can see how some might get a bit bored by the book and see it as a joke that goes on too long. I also think there are probably a lot of topical references to Latin American writers that I probably missed but I think that does not really matter too much.
If you were offended by the scene in the Mel Brooks move (1968) The Producers during which "Spring Time for Hitler" was preformed, you might not like this book.
There are a number of excellent blog posts on Nazi Literature in the Americas. Here are links to three of them
Ready When You are C.B.
On in lieu of a field guide you will find a lot of valuable and insightful material on Bolano
There is also a group reading of Savage Detectives that is set to begin in January. I really urge anyone interested in Bolano to join with us for this event.