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Nazi Literature in the Americas (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – May 29, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Significant Seven, February 2008: As with the emergence of W.G. Sebald into English a decade ago, the most exciting new writer to watch is one we're just catching up with: the late Roberto Bolaño, whose ground-breaking fiction defined a generation of Spanish-speaking literature. In between last year's thrillingly meandering epic, The Savage Detectives, and the upcoming alleged masterwork, 2666, comes a small and strange book (but no stranger than the rest), Nazi Literature in the Americas. Presented as a biographical encyclopedia of right-wing writers in North and South America, these short, invented lives are full of the stuff of minor literary scenes and forgotten books, with delusion and creation mixed in equal fashion. Funny, melancholy, surprisingly tender, and--once in a while--erupting into fury, Bolaño spins out tale after tale with the joy of sheer invention and the burden of inescapable history. --Tom Nissley --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The title chosen by Bolaño (1953–2003) for this slim, fake encyclopedia is not wholly tongue-in-cheek: given the very real presence of former (and not-so-former) Nazis in Latin America following WWII, this book, despite being fiction, still had j'accuse-like power when first published in 1996. The poets described herein, though invented, seem—even at their most absurd—plausible, which is the secret to this sly book's devastating effect. And as one proceeds from an entry on Edelmira Thompson de Mendiluce (In high spirits, Edelmira asked for the Führer's advice: which would be the most appropriate school for her sons?) to one on Carlos Ramírez Hoffman (His passage through literature left a trail of blood and several questions posed by a mute), it becomes clear that there is a single witness to all of these terrible figures, one who has spent time in one of Pinochet's prisons and is bent on coolly totting up the crimes of fascism's literary perpetrators. Some readers will recognize figures and episodes from Bolaño's other books (including The Savage Detectives and Distant Star). The wild inventiveness of Bolaño's evocations places them squarely in the realm of Borges—another writer who draws enormous power from the movement between the fictive and the real. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (May 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811217949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811217941
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #625,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author of 2666 and many other acclaimed works, Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) was born in Santiago, Chile, and later lived in Mexico, Paris, and Spain. He has been acclaimed "by far the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time" (Ilan Stavans, The Los Angeles Times)," and as "the real thing and the rarest" (Susan Sontag). Among his many prizes are the extremely prestigious Herralde de Novela Award and the Premio Rómulo Gallegos. He was widely considered to be the greatest Latin American writer of his generation. He wrote nine novels, two story collections, and five books of poetry, before dying in July 2003 at the age of 50. Chris Andrews has won the TLS Valle Inclán Prize and the PEN Translation Prize for his Bolaño translations.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
To preface: As we all know, Roberto Bolano passed away in 2003. Like many in America, New Directions let us in on the secret with "By Night In Chile" and "Distant Star" (which is actually an elaboration of the final story in "Nazi Literature in the Americas"). Next came "Last Evenings on Earth" and "Amulet" last year. "The Savage Detectives" came out via Farrar, Straus and Giroux last year as well and, his masterpiece, "2666" is on its way. If you haven't read any of these, it doesn't matter what order, just read any and all.

"Nazi Literature in the Americas" reads like a history (but not in a bad way). Bolano creates dozens of personalities, each with intricite details and interesting character traits that even a third-party (Bolano) can convey gently. Each character exists throughout North and South America in the twentieth-century, some not dying until 2040 (which Bolano uses to hint that these people still exist into the later twenty-first century).

As the title suggests, each character is tied, in Bolano fashion, to fascist literary movements in their respective time period and country. Edelmira Thompson de Mendiluce, the first chronicled in the novel, is a bourgeois Argentine who met Hitler in the 1930's and was sympathetic to the cause ever since. Max Mirebalais, is a poor Haitian who steals from other European poets and crafts "many masks," which he uses to create an ideology of hate. Argentino Schiaffino is a thug from Buenos Aires who loves soccer and violence and believes in the heirarchy of races and is on the run most of his life for murder.

One gets the point. The problem is, this doesn't half convey the textual density and complexity of the work. The way the characters interact within each others stories, how one influences the other, etc.
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Format: Hardcover
Nazi Literature in the Americas was Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño's first major success when it was first published in Spanish in 1996. It is the latest of his books to be published in England, following the excellent The Savage Detectives, the epic 2666 and the novella Amulet. But Nazi Literature in the Americas is a very different book to these previous translations, albeit equally innovative and interesting.

The book is a collection of imaginary biographies of invented right wing writers from Latin and North America, both historic and from the future. Bolaño knew something about political writers, having himself been imprisoned in Chile as a suspected left wing terrorist. What he provides here is a parody of both the right wing views and of literary criticism. His invented writers are intentionally absurd, often leading bizarre and tragic lives which are beautifully crafted in their descriptions. It's an exceptional achievement that these all hang together in a complete imagined world with the book complete with bibliographies of their works - often covering obscure and strange titles. I particularly likes the pilot-poet whose chosen medium is sky writing and the two football supporter gang leaders in Argentina who in their more tender moments resort to poetry.

There are plenty of amusing moments and the effect is a clever parody of literature, political views and literary criticism. There's an almost Bob Dylan-like take on the absurdities of analysis of these sad writers.

In saying that, if this is your first introduction to Bolaño, I'd recommend starting elsewhere - probably with The Savage Detectives. Why?
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Format: Paperback
This collection of 30 odd " hagliographies"(obituaries of fictitious Pan American writers of the 20th Century) gives Bolano enormous scope for his imagination but perhaps due to my lack of knowledge of South American literature and history I found that most of the references to supposed books written by these fictitious authors conveyed little of interest. There were moments of very humourous observations but some 'lives' were very mundane and the list of works (and number of pages) failed to mean anything to me. The final chapter and by far the longest (30 pages) where Bolano brings himself into the narrative is the most interesting. It explores the theme when an artist gets emersed in politics, a theme more deeply developed in Ishiguro's "An Artist of the Floating World". The precis of secondary characters, details of the publishing houses and bibliography of all the fictitious works mentioned in the book at the end was a step too far and any meaning Bolano had for their inclusion left me totally mystified.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I approach a satirical work I follow a simple rubric: does it make me laugh. The honest belly laugh is, for me, the "scathe" in scathing satire. There is not a single chapter in Roberto Bolano's "Nazi Literature in America" that failed to elicit howls of laughter sometimes accompanied by tears. Bolano presents the reader with a compendium of fictional biographies of non-existent writers. With each entry one gets the impression that he has taken Hannah Arendt's "the banality of evil" seriously. Each author is presented in an uncritical and dead-pan manner which forces the reader to ferret out the "evil" in the context of his/her "banal" biographical narrative. Not a single "author" in "Nazi Literature" approaches anything like genius. Even those who live rather colorful lives write in rather turgid prose and aimless fiction that produces a sort of stupor in their readership. This, I think is the key to understanding what Bolano is really up to. He may have had Goya's famous etching in mind:"El sueno de la razon produce monstruos" (the sleep of reason brings forth monsters).
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