Nazi Literature in the Americas

Nazi Literature in the Americas

4.4 5
by Roberto Bolaño
     
 

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A "biographical dictionary" gathering 30 brief accounts of poets, novelists and editors (all fictional) who espouse fascist or extremely right-wing political views.Nazi Literature in the Americas was the first of Roberto Bolano's books to reach a wide public. When it was published by Seix Barral in 1996, critics in Spain were quick to recognize the arrival of an

Overview

A "biographical dictionary" gathering 30 brief accounts of poets, novelists and editors (all fictional) who espouse fascist or extremely right-wing political views.Nazi Literature in the Americas was the first of Roberto Bolano's books to reach a wide public. When it was published by Seix Barral in 1996, critics in Spain were quick to recognize the arrival of an important new talent. The book presents itself as a biographical dictionary of American writers who flirted with or espoused extreme right-wing ideologies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is a tour de force of black humor and imaginary erudition.Nazi Literature in the Americas is composed of short biographies, including descriptions of the writers' works, plus an epilogue ("for Monsters"), which includes even briefer biographies of persons mentioned in passing. All of the writers are imaginary, although they are all carefully and credibly situated in real literary worlds. Ernesto Pérez Masón, for example, in the sample included here, is an imaginary member of the real Orígenes group in Cuba, and his farcical clashes with José Lezama Lima recall stories about the spats between Lezama Lima and Virgilio Pinera, as recounted in Guillermo Cabrera Infante's Mea Cuba. The origins of the imaginary writers are diverse. Authors from twelve different countries are included. The countries with the most representatives are Argentina (8) and the USA (7).

Editorial Reviews

Ben Granger - Spike Magazine
“With his meticulous, expertly crafted idiosyncrasies Bolaño has created another universe here, a breathing, thriving world.”
Robert Leiter - Jewish Exponent
“Masterfully executed…the book is wildly funny… [a] wickedly entertaining and evocative masterwork.”
Spike Magazine
“With his meticulous, expertly crafted idiosyncrasies Bolaño has created another universe here, a breathing, thriving world.”— Ben Granger
Jewish Exponent
“Masterfully executed…the book is wildly funny… [a] wickedly entertaining and evocative masterwork.”— Robert Leiter
Michael Dirda
…imaginative, full of a love for literature, and, unlikely as it may seem, exceptionally entertaining…playing a tricky game, carefully balancing mockery and black humor against our natural sense of revulsion…Roberto Bolano is worth discovering, worth reading—and even worth all the trouble of having to explain why it is that you are toting around a book called Nazi Literature in the Americas.
—The Washington Post
Stacey D'Erasmo
Nazi Literature in the Americas, a wicked, invented encyclopedia of imaginary fascist writers and literary tastemakers, is Bolaño playing with sharp, twisting knives. As if he were Borges's wisecracking, sardonic son, Bolaño has meticulously created a tightly woven network of far-right litterateurs and purveyors of belles lettres for whom Hitler was beauty, truth and great lost hope. Cross-referenced, complete with bibliography and a biographical list of secondary figures, Nazi Literature is composed of a series of sketches, the compressed life stories of writers in North and South America who never existed, but all too easily could have. Goose-stepping caricatures a la "The Producers" they are not; instead, they are frighteningly subtle, poignant and plausible.
—The New York Times
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 Detectivesand 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.)

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Luke Sykora - Rain Taxi
“It's a testament to Bolaño's skillful prose and vivid characters that his parade of micro-biographies stays fresh throughout.”
Matt Marshall - Nectar Magazine
“Award-winning translator Chris Andrews gives us ...proof that Bolano is ...one of the most important literary figures of 25 years.”
David Varno - The Brooklyn Rail
“Bolano's legacy: his proclivity to wandering, his obsession with the darker elements, and his inability to belong to a country.”
Michael Saler - Times Literary Supplement
“The pleasures of Bolano's dark and imaginative vision go well beyond simple satire.”
Joshua Cohen - Forward
“This book, brilliantly and rambunctiously written, is a denunciation of homegrown fascism.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811217941
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
05/29/2009
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
696,223
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet 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.

The poet Chris Andrewsteaches at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where he is a member of the Writing and Society Research Center. He has translated books by Roberto Bolaño and César Aira for New Directions.

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