Nazi Literature in the Americas (Roberto Bolano)


This book comprises short biographies of 31 imaginary writers of extreme right-wing views, mostly from Latin America but a few from the United States as well.  A couple of the gringo productions remind me of Cormac McCarthy in fact.

The enterprise sounds quite Borgesian then, though I think there is a difference–the aim here is surely to criticise the world from a particular viewpoint, not just defamiliarise it.  I gained the following insights from the book:

i)  the sadness of wasted lives–people who cut themselves off from ordinary life by being mad and/or evil and end ignobly serving in bars;

ii)  the utter pointless loathesomeness of poetry and inadequacy of poets (Milan Kundera makes the same point in Life is Elsewhere);

iii)  the deathly airlessness of literary cliques and indeed whole literary worlds;

iv)  you can see the existence and multiplication of these unappetising specimens as the florid manifestations of a world of death-squads and official denials.

The book also has many very funny moments, as in the short notice at the end of the entirely imaginary Romanian general Eugenio Entrescu:

Eugenio Entrescu.  Bacau, Rumania, 1905–Kishinev, Ukraine, 1944.  Rumanian General.  During the Second World War he distinguished himself in the capture of Odessa, the Siege of Sebastopol and the Battle of Stalingrad.  Erect, his member was exactly twelve inches long, half an inch longer than that of Dan Carmine.  He commanded the 20th Division, the 14th Division, and the 3rd Infantry Corps.  His soldiers crucified him in a village near Kishinev.

One real, indeed foreign, writer who gets a mention is Georges Perec, and one of his themes was a fracturing of reality occasioned by the Nazis…

Or you could take it quite seriously!

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