Nazi Lit­er­a­ture in the Americas

Rober­to Bolano; Chris Andrews, trans.
  • Review
By – March 5, 2012

When Rober­to Bolaño’s nov­el The Sav­age Detec­tives appeared in Eng­lish in 2007 it caused an imme­di­ate lit­er­ary sen­sa­tion, albeit a somber one, since this aston­ish­ing­ly orig­i­nal fab­u­list had died in 2003 at the age of 50. Nazi Lit­er­a­ture in the Amer­i­c­as, also a nov­el despite its title, deserves equal acclaim. 

Out­ward­ly this is a col­lec­tion of bio­graph­i­cal sketch­es of thir­ty authors, enter­tain­ing­ly relat­ed in the know­ing and wry tone of some British news­pa­per obit­u­ar­ies. He dab­bled in a broad range of delin­quent activ­i­ties with­out devel­op­ing a par­tic­u­lar spe­cial­ty,” relates the nar­ra­tor about one of his sub­jects. A book balks at none of the clichés that recur in the volu­mi­nous lit­er­a­ture on that theme,” he observes about the work of another. 

But the humor belies the per­verse world these fic­tive authors inhab­it, where aris­to­crats idol­ize Hitler and death-squad tor­tur­ers for author­i­tar­i­an regimes write fic­tion in their spare time. Bolaño, imag­in­ing how lit­er­a­ture and life might inter­sect in a demi­monde that looks for­ward to a Fourth Reich, ulti­mate­ly reflects on ways that writ­ing can con­fer pow­er and sta­tus, grat­i­fy the ego, offer solace, uncov­er hid­den demons, and cre­ate pur­pose for any human being. 

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