Nazi literature in the Americas

by Roberto Bolano

Hardcover, 2008




New York : New Directions, 2008.


A tour de force of black humor, composed of short biographies of imaginary pan-American authors, providing sketch character portraits that are often pathetically funny, sometimes surprisingly moving, and on occasion, authentically chilling.

Media reviews

Nazi Literature in the Americas is a real curiosity; it has a surface simplicity, but few readers will be able to pin down a general unease about the book's purpose and meaning...Bolaño's impressive novel triumphs by displaying a power of imagination and a quiddity we are not inclined to allow any
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of his imaginary writers.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member lriley
Having read Stacey D'Erasmo's review yesterday in the NYTimes book review--there is little to be added to that. If one is interested one should check that out. As it is for me Bolano invents a literary reference work of would be fascist or nazi sympathizing writers complete with bibliographic
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information and secondary sources and figures. One can see a definite comparable to some of the works of the great Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges but this is a lot more sinister in nature and content. Bolano's book imagines a world of what if's. What if for instance the worldviews projected out by these writers had gotten the upper hand? Some churning out science fiction end of the world religious drek, others extol Hitler or amass thousands of pages of bile on 18th century French philosophers like Montaigne, Voltaire and Diderot. The last of the entries may be the most sinister--one Carlos Ramirez Hoffman aka Emilio Stevens--seen previously before in Bolano's novella 'Distant Star'--a Chilean air force officer who in the wake of the Pinochet coup becomes part of the apparatus of state terror--the torture and disappearances/murders of dissidents. He also is a bit of a serial killing free lancer--a trophy hunter--and would be poet and artist. He writes his poems in the sky--in messages referencing obliquely to some of the women he has butchered--also proudly showing off at a party he gives for friends and acquaintances at his home--photographs of these women being tortured and murdered. Whether it is the plagiarist Max Mirebilais a Haitian trying to combine Negritude and Nazism or the Aryan Nations prison poets--Thomas Murchison, John Lee Brook or Soldiers of Fortune--Ignacio Zubieta, Jesus Fernandez Gomez or the sons of Nazi war criminals born and raised in South America--Willy Schurholz this is a fascinating read with a broad range of types--and though not a long work having only 30 individual entries.

To borrow from D'Erasmo's NYTimes review piece: 'Goose-stepping caricatures a la 'The Producers' they are not; instead, they are frighteningly subtle, poignant and plausible. Like Leni Riefenstahl, the artistes Bolano invents share a certain Romantic asethetic, a taste for the classical and nonvulgar, a dislike of 'cacophony' and a lurking sense that something has gone wrong in the modern world--that children, for instance, have been 'stolen and raised by inferior races' and that a better world in the form of the Fourth Reich is imminent. (and later) Like Riefenstahl, they find the highest beauty in a particular sort of symmetry and order that only in retrospect seems indubitaly fascist. Horribly, persistently, they have a vision that they are incapable of giving up.'

There's no doubt in this readers mind that anything and everything that has come into print from Bolano's hands is well worth the time spent reading it. A very subtle mind--one who never shrinks from controversy. A brilliant writer.
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LibraryThing member kidzdoc
Nazi Literature in the Americas is an encyclopedic compilation of mini-biographies by imagined far right-wing writers who are placed in realistic settings and interact with real authors and other famous people.

I stopped reading it after 80 pp., as I found it quite tedious. I would imagine that
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someone with a background in academic literature would find this much more enjoyable than I did; it is well written, and often humorous and/or disturbing.
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LibraryThing member trandism
Seriously now - why would someone write something like this? What is the drive, what is the motive, what is the inspiration? While reading this book, my inner voice kept asking those questions and tried to remind me that all I'm reading is fictious. All those poets and novelists with their crazy
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lives and questionable morals, their abused lovers, their periodicals and publication houses, their football gangs - all products of Roberto Bolano's imagination. But at some point you stop asking and start dwelling into this alternate universe. And although you find it hard to resist checking all these names on wikipedia, you finally settle down and enjoy the experience. Because no matter how hard it is to explain why Bolano created this cornucopia of information, you cannot stop admiring the magnificent end result.
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LibraryThing member CBJames
Roberto Bolano's Nazi Literature in the Americas is an encyclopedic look at a fictional literary movement. Novelists, poets, short story writers, magazine editors and publishers are all given detailed entries covering their lives and work. Minor figures and publications are listed in the appendices
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at the back. All down to the least significant fictional fascist author is included, lovingly, even reverently described.

Is Mr. Bolano playing a dangerous game with his readers? For the most part, the people included seem harmless. Their work is literature; the book about them non-political. Most of the biographical entries don't appear fascist at all, let alone Nazi. There is no talk of Anti-Semitism, or racial superiority, or eugenics. The final solution is not mentioned nor is there any discussion of World War II. The writers described in Mr. Bolano's book are concerned not with politics but with poetics. If the cover didn't say Nazi, you'd never guess.

Mr. Bolano's characters are a self-important, delusional bunch. Relegated to obscurity by history, they still consider themselves a vital literary movement. Mr. Bolano's "narrator" does nothing to subvert this notion. His tone recognizes the importance of the writers and publications described. He could easily be a university professor documenting a lifetime's worth of research. But while the writers included in Nazi Literature in the Americas interact with some of the canonical authors of their day--Borges, Ginsberg to name a few--they do not make an impact on either them or the literary world of their time. In the end, to this reader's relief, Mr. Bolano's Nazis are a pathetic bunch.

But just how hard is Mr. Bolano pulling our leg? Had history taken a different course, would a Nazi poetics have emerged? Would the authors described in Nazi Literature in the Americas be the ones occupying center stage while Borges and Ginsberg struggled in obscurity? These are not easy questions for those of us who value literature. We hope there is something about literature that places it above politics. We don't like to think about how literature is also determined by politics. They say the winners write the history books, but don't they also write the poetry?

Reading Nazi Literature in the Americas is much like reading an encyclopedia. That is both a compliment and a complaint. Mr. Bolano maintains the objective voice commonly found in good encyclopedias throughout most of his novel. This objectivity serves to present his fictional characters in a non-judgemental manner that underscores how feeble their efforts are while it makes the reader uneasy by invoking our sympathy. We chuckle at their absurdity, feel guilty about it, then feel guilty for feeling guilty.

But reading an encyclopedia, even a very well written one, becomes a tedious experience at some point. Encyclopedias are not meant to be read cover to cover. Novels are. Mr. Bolano's narrator himself falls victim to the same tedium his readers begin to experience. Towards the end of Nazi Literature in the Americas he loses his objective, encyclopedia writer voice, and becomes a story teller. The last few entries in the book are really short stories, not biographical essays. Perhaps that makes Mr. Bolano's experiment a failure, since he couldn't keep it up all the way to the finish. Perhaps it simply recognizes the needs of his reader and the needs of his narrator who just can't help himself anymore. He's a fan, he wants to tell the story with all its inherent drama. Objectivity be damned.
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LibraryThing member richardderus
Abandon ship! All hands abandon ship! By p41, I was so tired of being condescended to and treated to clever-clever in-jokey boring dreary archness that I was ready to fire up the fireplace and go all Fahrenheit 451 on this thing's ass.

It's a library book. That saved it. But that's ALL that saved it.
LibraryThing member Voise15
Borges like literary conceit. Occassionally laugh out loud, but always sharply observed and disturbing.
LibraryThing member Brasidas
The format of this fiction is as a biographical guide to Nazi writers, pre- and post-World War II. I was expecting the "entries" to tie together into some sort of recognizable narrative. Bolano does not do this. Indeed, Bolano is not even interested in this. Each entry is freestanding and could be
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subtracted from the whole as easily as, say, new entries could be added. While there is some cross-pollination it doesn't pull the disparate parts together into a story. While the book has relevance for Bolano's œuvre as a whole, it is not the place to start if you are new to this author. Try BY NIGHT IN CHILE or DISTANT STAR, or even 2666, first.
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LibraryThing member PaulBerauer
Nazi Literature in the America's is a fascinating pseudo-dictionary covering over a half century of fictional Latin American fascist writers. While the title suggests the book focuses on Nazis, the authors and poets discussed are more general fascists and madmen (or madwomen as the case sometimes
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is) that strict Nazi's. The book itself is a fascinating look into the world of Roberto Bolano, and is self-referencing and at times very funny. While the articles themselves vary, most are only a few pages long. All in all, Nazi Literature is a strange and interesting book on (fictional) extremist literature and Bolano's sly portrayal of what literature as a whole might mean.
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LibraryThing member jorgearanda
A curious encyclopedia of fictitious nazi (or fascist, or simply authoritarian) writers in the American continent. The point, of course, is not to provide a useless reference of non-existent authors, but to probe the relationship between literature and power. In passing, Bolaño also makes some
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sarcastic and amusing observations on the literary communities of Latin America.
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LibraryThing member DRFP
Another of Roberto Bolano's smug literary endeavours. The prose is nice enough, as always, but this book is nothing more than a smart idea that has no where to go. The encyclopedic entries are for the most part dry and tedious, only occasionally funny. They quickly become repetitive because there's
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no emotional involvement to be had - as one reviewer has already noted, no-one reads an encyclopedia cover to cover for good reasons. The book picks up towards the end when the entries become a bit longer and the individuals are more fleshed out. The epilogue is also more amusing than most of what came before. Yet despite ending on a good note I can't really recommend NLITA. It's more of the same smart, but unlovable, writing that made The Savage Detectives such a bore.
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LibraryThing member Praj05
Bolano puts forth a compilation of 30 peculiar biographies of fictitious Pan American writers in the 20th century accentuating quite a few brazen out supremacists, interlaced with the triviality of malevolence and complex yet vibrant inhabitations of bizarre hermits spurning volatile prose and
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erudite parody of eccentric cerebral subjugation. Although not Bolano’s treasure, it does illuminate the excruciating passion and mordant stupor he is reputed for.
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LibraryThing member V.V.Harding
Only four stars for this engaging work of a prodigious and bitter imagination, because compared to his other work, it provides less latitude for his particular genius.
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
A brilliant book, a compendium of made-up writer biographies, each of whom ended up falling for the seductions of the right wing.
LibraryThing member orkydd
Probably not the best introduction to Roberto Bolano's body of work. A series of faux biographies of right wing writers.
LibraryThing member jonfaith
An amazing book which kept me riveted the entire way. I finished it in a single sitting.


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