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August 3, 2020 | Rome, Italy

Nazi Literature in the Americas

By | 2018-03-21T18:34:08+01:00 October 1st, 2008|Recent Reviews|

By Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews

New Directions, 2008. 227 pages.

Among the shortest entries in this vicious compendium of pranks recaps the life of fictitious 20th century Uruguayan writer Carlos Hevia whose novel “Jason’s Prize” was “a fable suggesting life on Earth is the result of a disastrous intergalactic television game show.” Hevia’s best friend in turn was “revisionist” French philosopher Étienne de Saint Étienne, “who tried to use historical documents (including dubious permits for the opening of kosher butchers’ shops) to prove that only 300,000 Jews had died in all the concentration camps…”

In the mid-1990s, take-no-prisoners Bolaño decided to mock the foibles and absurdities of self-absorbed, pro-Nazi literary intelligentsia between 1930 and infinity (some of his creations die in mid-21st century). To do so, he shammed up pan-American biographies of the awful and the deluded, fascists because they’re mad or vice versa.

Though Bolaño’s totalitarian zombies may never have walked the Earth, he infuses them with alarming originality: Luz Mendiluce Thompson is know poems such as “I Was Happy With Hitler” and “Stalin” — “a chaotic fable set among set among vodka bottles and incomprehensible shrieks.” Publishers of these tirades include the Fourth Reich Press and the Chilean magazine “History and Thought,” one of whose editors is a “ferocious futurist” who wrote a tract Bolaño calls “a monumental and quasi-schizophrenic exercise in leg-pulling,” which of course defines Bolaño’s own

Seldom is an author so at home with so savage an appetite. He lacerates his make-believe clowns — philosophers, novelists, thugs, loiterers, hooligans — by blackly dead-panning their nonsense (convict Thomas R. Murchison, alias “The Texan” writes “a seventy-line poem to a weasel.”)

Toward the end, Bolaño circles back to Carlos Ramirez-Hoffman, the artist-serial killer of his novel “Distant Star.” For Ramirez-Hoffman (Carlos Weider in “Distant Star”), art is torture, pornography and murder. Fascism is execration excused to nation or nobility. This is Bolaño in his prime, joyous and vengeful.

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