Hot off the Press: THE THIRD REICH by Roberto Bolaño
Though Bolaño may have died almost a decade ago, thanks to Macmillan, translations of his works are still hitting our shore at quite a rate.
But knowledge of the later work almost certainly improves the latest Bolaño novel to appear in English: The Third Reich, written in 1989, which against every tenet of the New Criticism offers a richer reading experience once you have seen the signature. Indeed, I kept responding to it like a person living in two times. Mainly I was reading the novel now, and finding it thoroughly, weirdly absorbing. Partly I was reading as if I were an unfortunate editor in around 1990, wondering how I was going to tell Bolaño that this wasn’t quite a finished book yet, that his plot led nowhere, that his characters kept trailing off into incoherence. That earlier reader would have been wrong even then, but without hindsight it’s easy to be wrong.
In case it all seems like hard work and his masterpiece, 2666, at nine hundred pages is a bit of a stretch (its most famous section is an inventory of hundreds of the corpses of murdered women), Giles Harvey in The New Yorker prepared a users’ guide to Bolaño. This is what he had to say about THE THIRD REICH:
A moody and uneven novel … should join that shelf marked “For Completists Only,” on which also sit Antwerp, Monsieur Pain, The Romantic Dogs, Between Parentheses, and The Skating Rink. Although The Third Reich, which seems to represent Bolaño’s first attempt at novel-writing, is not without certain characteristic charms—black comedy, idiomatic vigor, a looming and ineffable sense of doom—its power is only intermittent and its prose is often as flat as old seltzer water.
Read all reviews here.