The Third Reich [NOOK Book]

Overview

On vacation with his girlfriend, Ingeborg, the German war games champion Udo Berger returns to a small town on the Costa Brava where he spent the summers of his childhood. Soon they meet another vacationing German couple, Charly and Hanna, who introduce them to a band of locals—the Wolf, the Lamb, and El Quemado—and to the darker side of life in a resort town.

Late one night, Charly disappears without a trace, and Udo’s well-ordered life is thrown into upheaval; while Ingeborg ...

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The Third Reich

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Overview

On vacation with his girlfriend, Ingeborg, the German war games champion Udo Berger returns to a small town on the Costa Brava where he spent the summers of his childhood. Soon they meet another vacationing German couple, Charly and Hanna, who introduce them to a band of locals—the Wolf, the Lamb, and El Quemado—and to the darker side of life in a resort town.

Late one night, Charly disappears without a trace, and Udo’s well-ordered life is thrown into upheaval; while Ingeborg and Hanna return to their lives in Germany, he refuses to leave the hotel. Soon he and El Quemado are enmeshed in a round of Third Reich, Udo’s favorite World War II strategy game, and Udo discovers that the game’s consequences may be all too real.

Written in 1989 and found among Roberto Bolaño’s papers after his death, The Third Reich is a stunning exploration of memory and violence. Reading this quick, visceral novel, we see a world-class writer coming into his own—and exploring for the first time the themes that would define his masterpieces The Savage Detectives and 2666.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Wood
…thoroughly, weirdly absorbing…This is a novel about playing with history, or entering other people's history—German history, Spanish history, South American history—without getting it or knowing how to worry about it.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Many hallmarks of Bolaño’s work are present in this novel, written in 1989 and found among his papers after his death in 2003. Presented in diary-like entries over a two-month span late in an unspecified year after WWII, the book follows the unstable Udo Berger, a man who veers between love and hate and is barely able to control his violent impulses. Udo has come from Stuttgart with his girlfriend, Ingeborg, to the Costa Brava in Spain where he vacationed a decade before. A self-absorbed, egotistical autodidact war game champion, Udo obsessively plays a strategy game called the Third Reich while Ingeborg enjoys the beach with Charly and Hanna, another German couple they’ve met, and three local characters: the Wolf, the Lamb, and a badly burned beach worker called El Quemado. Charly goes for a swim and disappears, and Udo makes advances on the hotel manager, an older woman who calls his game “obscene... horrible... tasteless.” Udo soon lures El Quemado to play and events turn feverish and surreal; the novice defeats Udo, symbolically repeating the Nazis’ downfall. Infused with unease and menace, deliberately ambiguous about reality vs. perception, Bolaño’s novel is a psychological thriller without a convincing payoff. Its atmosphere, however, clearly prefigures the preoccupations of the author’s later masterpieces. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"A mesmerizing tale: sleek, linear, easily digested, beautifully translated…classic Bolaño."—-The Washington Post

"A beguiling introduction to Bolaño…The Third Reich is giddily funny, but it is also prickly and bizarre enough to count among Bolaño’s first-rate efforts."—-The Economist

"A perfect novel…Compassionate, disturbing, and deeply felt, it’s as much of a gift as anything the late author has given us."—-NPR

"Think Kafka at a beach resort…For those who like their literature to make them look with fear and suspicion at even the most mundane events, The Third Reich is calling."—-The Cleveland Plain Dealer"Bolaño is a master of atmosphere...in the tradition of Georges Simenon’s gloomy romans durs...or the tightly controlled hallucinations of Alain Robbe-Grillet."—-The Wall Street Journal

"A brilliant first novel…all the more remarkable for its prescience."—-The New Republic

Library Journal
When Bolaño died at 50, he left behind a large amount of writing. The critical success of his novels in the United States, including The Savage Detectives and National Book Critics Award winner 2666, has sent translators to work on his legacy of poetry, stories, and novels. First published serially in the Paris Review and written in diary format, this work describes a vacation at a Spanish beach by a German named Udo and his girlfriend, Ingeborg. Rich details describe the setting, including the terror found in the everyday—from the way a burn victim (El Quemada) sets up the pedal boats he rents to the uncanny beauty of a receptionist. Udo is a minor celebrity in the realm of war games, and from the first day at his hotel there is a building tension. Unfortunately, this never resolves in the game Udo plays with El Quemada, and the ending is a bit anticlimactic. VERDICT Readers of literary fiction who aren't already converts should start with one of Bolaño's more famous works, which are more accessible and have a clearer story arc. Fans won't want to miss this early work, which shows the genesis of his themes. [See Prepub Alert, 6/27/11.]—Kate Gray, New York
Kirkus Reviews
From the acclaimed Chilean novelist (1953–2003), a recently discovered 1989 novel; this enigmatic look at power though the prism of war games is on a smaller scale than the two sprawling works that secured his reputation: The Savage Detectives (2007) and 2666 (2008). Udo Berger and his girlfriend Ingeborg, Germans in their 20s, arrive on Spain's Costa Brava for their vacation. Life's never been better, Udo confides in one of the diary entries that comprise the novel. War games are Udo's passion, and he's the German champion, a brilliant strategist moving armies across the board; he's brought with him a World War II game, the eponymous Third Reich. (Udo's no Nazi, despite his nostalgic love for German generals.) He and Ingeborg make friends with another German couple, Charly and Hanna; they go drinking and clubbing together. Charly is an aggressive boor who drowns while windsurfing, and a puzzling distraction from the core of the novel: the game and two unlikely opponents. Hanna and Ingeborg return to Germany; Udo has other fish to fry. He remains behind ostensibly to identify Charly's body when it washes up (it does). But he also wants to romance the attractive hotel owner, and more importantly pursue his obsession with a mysterious, badly scarred guy known as El Quemado (the Burn Victim), who owns a pedal-boat business and sleeps on the beach. No one is sure of his background; South America? There's even a suggestion he's the re-incarnation of an Incan warrior. At first Udo idealizes him as a Noble Savage, but he's plenty smart, a poetry lover. Udo teaches him the game; El Quemado catches on fast. Power shifts from the cocksure Udo to his humble opponent as the German crumbles, on the board and off. It's an allegory, yes, but Bolaño casts around uncertainly for the best way to frame it, and juggles various endings. A sluggish novel that gives few indications of the extraordinary work to come.
The Barnes & Noble Review

One of Roberto Bolaño's distinctions as a writer is his particular way of running a narrative off the rails. My favorite example is Distant Star, the story of how sinister Chilean poet Carlos Weider quietly slips into the role of state-sponsored propagandist and executioner. Even as this substantial change is occurring, another more fundamental one happens: the narrative frame hiccups from post-coup Chile to 1980s Spain, where the book becomes a search for the now long-lost Weider that revolves around a classic "locked room" detective mystery.

The pleasure evoked by Distant Star's cracked structure is one common to Bolaño: the reader must fit together two parts that are clearly linked, albeit via a murky logic. Bolaño's mastery of this form allowed him to maintain a strong sense of narrative momentum and focus, even while traversing large amounts of space and time. Moreover, it allowed him to force a reader to think about the intersections of art, passion, and politics, without becoming pedantic or preachy.

The Third Reich is a fine example of how his narratives slowly collect details until they have shifted into something that defies expectations. Never published in Bolaño's lifetime, the book has been dated to 1989, which places it well before Bolaño's staggering era of productivity, beginning in 1996 with Nazi Literature in the Americas and concluding five novels later with the thousand-page 2666, finished just before his death in 2003. Although Bolaño's friend Bruno Montané once heard the author call The Third Reich a "failed project," there is evidence to the contrary: at the time of his death, Bolaño had typed up its first sixty pages, as he did with the entirety of his prior "trunked" manuscripts Antwerp and Monsieur Pain, which were published within his lifetime at his discretion.

The Third Reich is one of Bolaño's most European novels, as it follows the clash of cultures that occurs when four German tourists travel to Spain's Costa Brava. Told as a series of journal entries by one of the tourists, Udo Berger, it narrates his partial transformation in the face of horror. This is hardly an uncommon theme for Bolaño — if anything, it is the single theme that Bolaño most clearly owned — but The Third Reich plays it differently enough to make a valuable contribution to his oeuvre. It is distinguished by its expertly handled portraits of a large cast of major characters, as well as Bolaño's ability to orchestrate the increasingly complex and bizarre relationships among them with a sureness that keeps the plot ticking even as his subtext continues to broaden in interesting ways.

The book gets off to a placid enough beginning as Udo, in his mid- twenties, looks forward to a fulfilling life as he leaves young adulthood - - of course, this situation will not last for long. The first crack comes when Bolaño reveals that Udo is a devotee of a tabletop strategy game called The Third Reich, wherein players re-wage the conflicts in World War II's European Theater with counters representing real-world military units. He is the German champion, that is, the recognized top player among a subculture of zealots who meet for tournaments, publish new gambits in low-budget 'zines, and generally gossip about one another. Udo's pursuit of The Third Reich sounds much like how Bolaño described the pursuit of literature: something is done around one's professional life, an activity for which Udo's passion is so great that he has significant misgivings about doing it "professionally." It is, in so many words, a calling. And, to paraphrase something Bolaño once said about literature, it turns out to be a dangerous calling for Udo.

The first third of The Third Reich deftly lays out the relationships between Udo and his girlfriend, Ingeborg, and their friends Charly and Hannah. Bolaño also introduces a couple of baleful Spanish beach bums known only as the Wolf and the Lamb, plus a very strange, very muscular transient who rents pedal boats; the latter is known as El Quemado because awful burns of unknown origin cover much of his body. Even as the Germans (with the Wolf and the Lamb mooching free drinks along the way) do nothing much more portentous than get drunk in clubs and sunbathe, Bolaño draws on his trademark capacity for infusing the everyday with an unpinnable sense of menace.

This story starts to collect the details that mark its swerve when the Lamb reveals to Udo that El Quemado is actually from South America: "This fact," Udo reflects, "in itself trivial, struck me as particularly disturbing and significant?. I didn't feel deceived. I felt observed?observed by a void, an absence." The sense of a void that Udo feels emanating from El Quemado also comes to manifest itself in Charly. In addition to suspecting Charly of rape, Udo discovers that Charly gives Hannah a black eye, yet he turns Charly's darkness back on himself, reflecting, "For an instant I have the sense that Charly has been lost forever. Unexpectedly I feel we share a common bond."

Charly's strange behavior appears to be bringing the Europeans toward some kind of an incident when, without warning, Bolaño interrupts with an entirely unexpected catastrophe: while windsurfing, Charly is lost at sea. With surprising suddenness the summer vacation is undone: Hannah heads back to Germany, Ingeborg follows, and Udo is left secluded in the hotel.

Why does he stay? This is the question that will haunt the book's second half. At first Udo leans on the excuse that Charly's body has not yet been recovered — he may still be alive, and even if he is dead, someone needs to see things through to the end. But just at this point Bolaño suggests a different explanation:

Only then did El Quemado smile, without diverting his attention for long from the pedal boat still lost in the distance. A slight shiver ran through me. The flesh of his cheek, two or three poorly healed scars, bristles, and for a second I was afraid that with this optical effect — there was nothing else it could be — he could hypnotize me and ruin my life forever. I was rescued by El Quemado's own voice. As if speaking from an insurmountable distance, he said: do you think we get along well? I nodded several times, happy to be able to escape the spell cast by his deformed cheek.
As Udo and El Quemado become embroiled in an epic game of The Third Reich, which Udo teaches to El Quemado as though taking on a surprisingly precocious pupil, the entire feel of the resort town changes. The August high season gives way to a lazy September, and locals like El Quemado, the Lamb and the Wolf, and hotel manager Frau Else, with whom Udo has been carrying on a low-key seduction the entire time, become slanted versions of the characters we met in the book's opening chapters. Obsessed with the sense of void he finds in El Quemado, Udo virtually forgets his prior life.

From here on The Third Reich, too, takes on a second life, becoming a book similar to but markedly different from the one we have been reading. What Bolaño most powerfully achieves here is a sense of profound instability as the characters continually redevelop anew. Udo's relationship with El Quemado is particularly rich: he goes from regarding El Quemado dismissively — at most as an object of idle curiosity — into something powerful and disturbing. At length, The Third Reich comes to look like an experiment formed from bringing forth certain repressed characteristics in Udo, El Quemado, Charly, and others. Notably, these characteristics are activated when individuals are brought into contact with The Third Reich board game.

The long-coming climax to Udo and El Quemado's book-length confrontation feels pale in comparison to similarly situated visions of horror in Distant Star or By Night in Chile, but I find that not to be so much a failure of Bolaño's imagination as an aspect of the story he is telling. After the confrontation, Udo references Goethe's poem "Blessed Longing," half-quoting the closing lines: "And until you have possessed / dying and rebirth / you are but a sullen guest / on the gloomy earth." That Udo describes himself as a "sullen guest" implies that his experiences with The Third Reich are not transformative, that he is not suited to travel that last bit into revelation. But witnessing the arc of his descent nevertheless imparts a bracing chill.

Scott Esposito is a critic, writer, and editor whose work has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. In 2004 he created the widely praised literary website Conversational Reading, which can be found at http://conversationalreading.com.

Reviewer: Scott Esposito

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429967358
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 11/22/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 599,069
  • File size: 361 KB

Meet the Author



Roberto Bolaño was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1953. He grew up in Chile and Mexico City, where he was a founder of the Infrarealist poetry movement. He is the author of The Savage Detectives, which received the Herralde Prize and the Rómulo Gallegos Prize, and 2666, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Bolaño died in Blanes, Spain, at the age of fifty.

Natasha Wimmer has translated many works of fiction and nonfiction by Spanish language authors, including Mario Vargas Llosa, Laura Restrepo, and Rodrigo Fresán, as well as Roberto Bolaño.

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Read an Excerpt

The Third Reich

A Novel
By Roberto Bolaño

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2011 Roberto Bolaño
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780374275624

The Third Reich
AUGUST 20Through the window comes the murmur of the sea mingled with the laughter of the night's last revelers, a sound that might be the waiters clearing the tables on the terrace, an occasional car driving slowly along the Paseo Marítimo, and a low and unidentifiable hum from the other rooms in the hotel. Ingeborg is asleep, her face placid as an angel's. On the night table stands an untouched glass of milk that by now must be warm, and next to her pillow, half hidden under the sheet, a Florian Linden detective novel of which she read only a few pages before falling asleep. The heat and exhaustion have had the opposite effect on me: I'm wide-awake. I usually sleep well, seven or eight hours a night, though I hardly ever go to bed tired. In the mornings I wake up ready to go and I can keep going for eight or ten hours straight. As far as I know, it's always been like that; it's how I was made. No one taught me to be this way, it's just how I am, and by that I don't mean to suggest that I'm better or worse than anybody else, than Ingeborg herself, for example, who on Saturdays and Sundays doesn't get up until after noon and who during the week needs two cups of coffee--and a cigarette--before she manages to really wake up and get off to work. Tonight, though, I'm too hot and tired to sleep. Also, the urge to write, to set down the events of the day, keeps me from getting into bed and turning out the light.The trip came off without any mishaps worth mentioning. Westopped in Strasbourg, a pretty town, though I'd been there before. We ate at a kind of roadside market. At the border, despite what we'd been told to expect, we didn't have to stand in line or wait more than ten minutes to cross over. Everything was quick and efficient. After that I drove because Ingeborg doesn't trust the drivers here, I think because she had a bad experience on a Spanish highway years ago when she was a girl on vacation with her parents. Also, she was tired, as is only natural.At the hotel reception desk we were helped by a very young girl who spoke decent German, and there was no problem finding our reservations. Everything was in order, and as we were on our way up I spotted Frau Else in the dining room; I recognized her right away. She was setting a table as she made some remark to a waiter who stood next to her holding a tray full of salt shakers. She was wearing a green suit, and pinned on her chest was a metal brooch with the hotel logo.The years had scarcely touched her.The sight of Frau Else brought back my adolescence, its dark and bright moments: my parents and my brother at breakfast on the hotel terrace, the music that at seven in the evening began to drift across the main floor from the restaurant speakers, the idle laughter of the waiters, and the plans made by the kids my age to go night swimming or out to the clubs. What was my favorite song back then? Each summer there was a new one, resembling in some way the songs from previous summers, hummed and whistled constantly and played at the end of the night by all the clubs in town. My brother, who has always been particular when it comes to music, would carefully choose what tapes to bring along on vacation; I preferred to pick up some new tune at random, inevitably the song of the summer. I had only to hear it two or three times, purely by chance, in order for its notes to follow me through sunny days and the new friendships that enlivened our vacations. Fleeting friendships, when I look back today, existing only to banish the faintest hint of boredom. Of all those faces only a few linger in memory. First, that of Frau Else, who won me over from the start, which made me the butt of jokes and teasing by my parents, whoeven made fun of me in front of Frau Else and her husband, a Spaniard whose name I can't recall, with references to my supposed jealousy and the precocity of youth that made me blush to the roots of my hair and that inspired in Frau Else an affectionate sense of camaraderie. After that I thought she showed a special warmth in her treatment of me. Also, although it is a very different case, there was José (was that his name?), a boy my age who worked at the hotel and who took us, my brother and me, to places where we'd never have gone without him. When we said good-bye for the last time, possibly guessing that we wouldn't spend the next summer at the Del Mar, my brother gave him a couple of rock tapes and I gave him an old pair of jeans. Ten years have gone by and I still remember the tears that filled José's eyes as he clutched the folded jeans in one hand and the tapes in the other, not knowing what to do or say, murmuring (in an English that my brother was always making fun of): Good-bye, dear friends, good-bye, dear friends, etc., while we told him in Spanish--a language that we spoke with some fluency; not for nothing had our parents vacationed in Spain for years--not to worry, the next summer we'd be like the Three Musketeers again, and that he should stop crying. We got two postcards from José. I answered the first one in my name and my brother's. Then we forgot about José and never heard from him again. There was also a boy from Heilbronn called Erich, the best swimmer of the season, and Charlotte, who liked to lie on the beach with me although it was my brother who was crazy about her. Then there was poor Aunt Giselle, my mother's youngest sister, who came with us on the second-to-last summer we spent at the Del Mar. More than anything else, Aunt Giselle loved bullfighting, and she couldn't get enough of the fights. Indelible memory: my brother driving my father's car with complete impunity and me sitting next to him, smoking, without a word from anyone, and Aunt Giselle in the backseat staring in ecstasy at the foam-splashed cliffs and the deep green of the sea beneath us with a smile of satisfaction on her pale lips and three posters, three treasures, on her lap, proof that she, my brother, and I had rubbed shoulders with the bullfighting greats at the Plaza de Toros in Barcelona.I know my parents disapproved of many of the activities that Aunt Giselle pursued with such passion, just as they weren't pleased by the freedoms she permitted us, excessive for children, as they saw it, although by then I was nearly fourteen. At the same time, I've always suspected that it was we who looked after Aunt Giselle, a task my mother assigned us without anyone realizing, surreptitiously and with great trepidation. In any case, Aunt Giselle was with us for only one summer, the summer before the last we spent at the Del Mar.That's almost all I remember. I haven't forgotten the laughter at the tables on the terrace, the galleons of beer that were emptied as I looked on in astonishment, the dark, sweaty waiters crouched in a corner of the bar talking in low voices. Random images. My father's happy smile and approving nods, a shop where we rented bicycles, the beach at nine thirty at night, still with a faint glow of sunlight. The room we had then was different from the one we're in now; whether better or worse I can't say, different, on a lower floor, and bigger, big enough to fit four beds, and with a large balcony facing the sea, where my parents would settle in the afternoons after lunch to play infinite card games. I'm not sure whether we had a private bathroom or not. Probably some summers we did and others we didn't. Our room now does have its own bathroom and also a nice big closet, and a huge bed, and rugs, and a marble table on the terrace, and green curtains of a fabric silky to the touch, and white wooden shutters, very modern, and direct and indirect lights, and some well-concealed speakers that play soft music at the touch of a button ... No doubt about it, the Del Mar has come up in the world. The competition, to judge from the quick glance I got from the car as we were driving along the Paseo Marítimo, hasn't been left behind either. There are hotels that I don't remember, and apartment buildings have sprung up on once vacant lots. But this is all speculation. Tomorrow I'll try to talk to Frau Else and I'll take a walk around town.Have I come up in the world too? Absolutely. Back then I hadn't met Ingeborg and today we're a couple; my friendships are more interesting and deeper (with Conrad, for example, who is like asecond brother to me and who will read what's written here); I know what I want and I have a better sense of perspective; I'm financially independent; I'm never bored now, which wasn't true in my adolescence. According to Conrad, the true test of health is lack of boredom, which means that I must be in excellent health. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that my life has never been better.Most of the credit goes to Ingeborg. Meeting her was the best thing that ever happened to me. Her sweetness, her charm, her soft gaze, put everything else--my own daily struggles and the backstabbing of those who envy me--into perspective, allowing me to face facts and rise above them. Where will our relationship lead? I ask this because relationships between young people today are so fragile. I'd rather not give it too much thought. Better to focus on the positive: loving her and taking care of her. Of course, if we end up getting married, so much the better. A life at Ingeborg's side: could I ask for anything more in matters of the heart?Time will tell. For now her love is ... But not to wax poetic. These vacation days will also be workdays. I have to ask Frau Else for a bigger table, or two small tables, to set up the game. Just thinking about the possibilities of my new opening strategy and all the various outcomes makes me want to get the game out right now and test it. But I won't. I have the energy only to write a little more. The trip was long and yesterday I hardly slept, partly because it was Ingeborg's and my first trip together and partly because it would be my first time back at the Del Mar in ten years.Tomorrow we'll have breakfast on the terrace. When? Ingeborg will probably get up late. Was there a set time for breakfast? I can't remember; I don't think so. In any case we could also have breakfast at a certain café in town, an old place that always used to be full of fishermen and tourists. When I was here with my parents we always ate there or at the Del Mar. Will it have closed? Anything can happen in ten years. I hope it's still open.Copyright © 2011 by the heirs of Roberto Bolaño Translation copyright © 2011 by Natasha Wimmer All rights reserved

Continues...

Excerpted from The Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño Copyright © 2011 by Roberto Bolaño. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

Reinterpreting the legacy of the Latin American literary boom, Roberto Bolaño's prizewinning fiction balances hilarity with provocative explorations of the human psyche. His most substantial works have only recently become available in English; his epic novel 2666 won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2008, five years after the author's death at age fifty.

The Third Reich showcases an early achievement by this stunningly gifted writer. Written in 1989 and found among Bolaño's papers after his death, this is the story of a German war-games champion named Udo who meets his match while vacationing on Spain's Costa Brava. Returning to the Hotel Del Mar, where he spent the summers of his childhood, Udo is accompanied by his beloved Ingeborg. It's the couple's first holiday together, but his greater obsession is Third Reich, his favorite World War II strategy game. At a bar one night, Udo is introduced to a severely disfigured local known as El Quemado, who later becomes his Third Reich opponent. But El Quemado seems to think that the game is a very real projection of his life—and a means to push Udo to the brink of insanity. When Charly, another German vacationer, vanishes without a trace, Udo suspects that El Quemado is involved. Ingeborg eventually returns to Germany alone while Udo extends his stay; he's drawn to the Del Mar's beautiful proprietor, Frau Else, whose dying husband may hold the key to El Quemado's mysterious quest. As the Allies close in on Udo, he realizes that he's poised to lose much more than a game.

The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Roberto Bolaño's The Third Reich. We hope they will enrich your experience as you explore this literary treasure.

QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

1. What skills make Udo a highly successful gamer? Do these techniques enhance or hinder him in his career and relationships?

2. As Udo tells his story, how does his perception of himself change? How might the story have unfolded if it had been told from El Quemado's point of view instead?

3. If you were Ingeborg, would you have been sympathetic to Udo? Do they make a good couple? What are the differences between Udo's attraction for Ingeborg and his desire for Frau Else?

4. What role do the Wolf and the Lamb play in stoking Udo's imagination? What do they get from associating with Udo, and vice versa? What common objectives do the three men share?

5. Is Charly and Hanna's volatile relationship more stable than Udo and Ingeborg's? What were your theories about Charly's disappearance?

6. Is Frau Else being shrewd, coy, or just indecisive with Udo? Is he a worthy adversary for her husband?

7. Despite her low status, how does Clarita exert influence over men? Does she bring clarity (true to her name) to Udo's predicament?

8. What does Udo learn from El Quemado about the power of memory and the experience of being a victim? How is El Quemado able to outmaneuver Udo even though he is new to playing Third Reich?

9. What makes World War II a powerful metaphor for the lives of the characters, as the German Udo vacations in a country once ruled by Franco? What does it mean to Udo to revisit historic military campaigns from this particular war? What makes him more obsessed with Third Reich than with other games?

10. Why does Frau Else's husband try to protect Udo from El Quemado? What is his motivation for getting involved in the game? On some level, are his predictions about Nuremberg's consequences ("The trial may be the most important part of the game") proven to be true?

11. What do Udo's dreams say about his deepest fears? How is he affected by his childhood memories of Costa Brava?

12. Udo insists that Third Reich is all about strategy, not about the morality of real-life warriors. Is he being honest about himself when he makes these claims? Ultimately, why is Udo doomed in his contest against El Quemado?

13. How did Udo's final scene with El Quemado compare to your own ideas about the looming danger?

14. In the aftermath scene titled "Seeckt," Conrad is told that his circle is like "a ghostly General Staff, forever performing military exercises on game boards . . . shadows playing with shadows." How are the other characters affected by the ghosts of the sojourn in Costa Brava?

15. The Third Reich was written in 1989. How can we apply it to twenty-first-century power struggles around the world, and to the virtual battlefields of online gaming? What message does Udo have for us today?

PRAISE FOR ROBERTO BOLAÑO

"[Bolaño] makes you feel changed for having read him; he adjusts your angle of view on the world." —Ben Richards, The Guardian

"When I read Bolaño I think: Everything is possible again." —Nicole Krauss

"Not since Gabriel García Márquez . . . has a Latin American redrawn the map of world literature so emphatically as Roberto Bolaño does . . . It's no exaggeration to call him a genius." —Ilan Stavans, The Washington Post Book World

"[Bolaño's] work . . . is as vital, thrilling and life-enhancing as anything in modern fiction." —Christopher Goodwin, The Sunday Times (London)

"Novelists have been smashing high and low together for a century, but Bolaño does it with the force of a supercollider." —Daniel Zalewski, The New Yorker

"[Bolaño] has the natural storyteller's gift—but more important, he has the power to lend an extraordinary glamour to the activities of making love and making poetry." —Edmund White

"A successor to Borges, García Márquez, and Julio Cortázar." —Siddhartha Deb, Harper's Magazine

"The most influential and admired novelist of his generation." —Susan Sontag

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 20, 2011

    Totally unique

    Simple and pure writing. Translation is supreme.

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