Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño - review by Michael Jacobs

Michael Jacobs

Encyclopedia of Rogues

Nazi Literature in the Americas


Picador 259pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The phenomenon known as ‘Bolañomania’ has been gaining momentum over the past five years, following the author’s death from liver failure at the age of fifty. Works of formerly limited appeal are now being reissued in Spain to such comments as ‘there is no such thing as a minor Bolaño’, while in Britain Picador has made what it brashly calls ‘a major investment to ensure that Bolaño maintains his position as the must-have author to read’. That such an eccentric book as Nazi Literature in the Americas, with all its in-jokes and wealth of obscure Hispanic allusions, should be translated at all into English (twelve years after its original publication) owes much to the belated success in the United States of Bolaño’s Savage Detectives and to the massive international hype surrounding his incomplete and posthumously published masterpiece, 2666.

The effect of such relentless exposure to Bolaño’s writings is to make you ever more aware of the interconnected nature of his works, and of the way in which many of the memorably odd personalities featured in one book are taken up at far greater length in the next. Thus Nazi Literature in the Americas, a novel in the form of a spoof encyclopaedia, introduces us to such rogues as the well-endowed Romanian general Eugenio Entrescu, whose crucifixion at the hands of his soldiers would loom large in the gripping climactic section of 2666.

Appearing here as well, as in nearly all his fiction, is Bolaño himself, who brings into the encylopaedia’s culminating entry a description of the time when his left-wing activism brought him back to Chile and to an internment in a Pinochet camp – an experience which gave him

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