Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolano

Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolano (1996, 227 pages)

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.

Parrish Lantern

Winstondad's Blog

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.

Mel u


Richard said...

Thanks for mentioning the Savage Detectives group read, Mel. There's quite a lot of my favorite bloggers signed up already, which is quite a bonus. Anyway, Nazi Literature in the Americas is one of my favorite Bolaño works. Love the biting satire. Love the imagination and the writing on display. You probably already know this, but Bolaño's Distant Star expands the last mini-biography of this book into a full-length novel. It's also excellent but more traumatizing in some ways in terms of its tone.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi, Mel, As you know I'm a big fan of Bolano, having read most of his works to date & This although not my favourite I still loved & was fascinated how using this encyclopaedia style format could still write a classic Bolano book. Also liked the way it played as a homage to another favourite writer Jorge Luis Borges, agree with Richard's comment above on Distant Star & also I'd recommend to you, that if you've not read Last Evenings on Earth, you should it's actually my favourite & as a short story fan would be of interest to you.
Ps, thanks for the link.

Rebecca Chapman said...

The only Bolano book I have read so far is By Night in Chile and I have to admit that I loved it! I have since purchased a lot of his books and have started a couple, but none have grabbed my attention as much as By Night in Chile did right from the word go. I do own this one and haven't started it so I will give it a go next time I am in the mood for some Bolano

Mel u said...

Richard-I am really looking forward to the read along for Savage Detectives-I will mention it again when it is near to starting

Parrish Lantern-I hope you can join in the read along with us-and know I was not aware of the information you mentioned

Becky(Page Turner)-I might reread One Night in Chile soon-I hope you can consider joining in for the Savage Detectives read along

Rise said...

Thanks for the group read plug, Mel. Nazi Lit must be one of my three or four favorite books by Bolaño. I didn't get all the literary in-jokes too but, yes, it didn't hamper the enjoyment. One I recognized, someone with a lot of aliases - a nod to the heteronyms of Pessoa - is really funny.

Mel u said...

Rise-I am looking forward to the group read-I will mention it again just before it is ready to start.