Nazi Literature in the Americas was the first of Roberto Bolaño's books to reach a wide public When it was published by Seix Barral in , 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 rightwing ideologies in the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries It is a tour de force of black humor and imaginary eruditionNazi 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 Perez Mason, for example, in the sample included here, is an imaginary member of the real Oriacute;genes group in Cuba, and his farcical clashes with Joseacute; Lezama Lima recall stories about the spats between Lezama Lima and Virgilio Pintilde;era, 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 and the United States

10 thoughts on “La literatura nazi en América

  1. Fabian Fabian says:

    The artists, writers, poets which inhabit this lexicon-type novel breathe the air of history, and all lead individual destinies never devoid of woe. The pursuit of art is presented warts-&-all, & is as realistic of art as it is about the appreciation of art.

    Nazi Literature in the Americas is one prolonged lament. (As if anything R. Bolano ever wrote wasn't one.) The uniqueness of the novel is that it has no plot but has instead the overwhelming urge to collect writers as economically, poignantly, & as fanatically as one would with baseball player cards.

    To say this writer appreciates other writers would be a gross understatement. He creates entire mythologies, constructs entire literary movements... which never even occurred! The apocryphal is superbly mixed in with the real. The feeling of being left out, of uncovering only Iceberg tips, in short... of the deprivation of intellect & emotion... this is what this phenomenal novel's really about.

  2. Seemita Seemita says:

    Somewhere in the midst of this book, Bolaño spells out in explicit words what I suspected to be the undercurrents from the word go:

    ….a novel about order and disorder, justice and injustice, God and the Void.
    So there I was - witnessing a swashbuckling cavalcade of ideas, overflowing from the chariot of Bolaño’s mind; irreducible owing to their weight, hypnotic owing to their flight.

    My first Bolaño could not have been a better book. 30 essays written as biographies of fictitious authors, who lived under the tremulous skies of Nazism and dabbled in poetry and science fiction, magical realism and political sagas, span the length and breadth of the written word; presenting an inclusive, although explosive, picture of Bolaño’s thoughts that bodes well with establishing acquaintance with his ideologies too, perhaps.

    The fascist authors, who are mostly Argentine or American languishing under pallidity and the arcane, display a wide array of literary faith: perseverance and manipulation, suppression and connivance, displacement and return, satire and humor; they push originality and also fall prey to plagiarism, they spark the rebel and turn victim too. The aspect, however, that secured my curiosity the tightest was the masterful amalgamation of real places, events and people into these imaginary lives. While there is generous reference to Trotskyism, Falangism, Peronism and the likes, there are veiled questions on the theocratic and Episcopalian diktats. There is generous mention of Borges and Cortázar who are known to have influenced Bolaño in many inspirational ways.

    Of course, the ingenuity of story-telling that had to befall Bolaño later in his writing career was visible in many of these essays, three of which, I took in with a chortle and awed smirk: in one work, the chapters, so begin, that joining the first letter of each chapter spell HITLER!; in another, a poem is written as a series of maps which upon further deciphering, reveal verses that point to their placement and use and in the last, a book is called Geometry that deploys variations like the barbed-wire fence, to join unrelated verses and provoke meaning out of the criss-cross.

    Oh there were far too many captivating things in this book and it turned out to be indeed a spectacle close to a chariot ride: slow and heavy at the beginning, loading the substantial thoughts one after another, gingerly finding foothold to attain stability, rolling the bearings forward and backward, hoisting the protagonists while narrating their significance to the ride, hopping cautiously for the initial furlongs and then, gaining speed with a wicked kick and speeding away with the confidence of a wise, chuckling driver.

    Let me sign off with one of the many flabbergasting paragraphs highlighting Bolaño’s boundless imagination that left my jaw drop with sheer pleasure:
    ..the action unfolds in a distorted present where nothing is as it seems, or in a distant future full of abandoned, ruined cities, and ominously silent landscapes, similar in many respects to those of the Midwest. His plots abound in providential heroes and mad scientists; hidden clans and tribes which at the ordained time must emerge and do battle with other hidden tribes; secret societies of men in black who meet at isolated ranches on the prairie; private detectives who must search for people lost on other planets; children stolen and raised by inferior races so that, having reached adulthood, they may take control of the tribe and lead it to immolation; unseen animals with insatiable appetites; mutant plants; invisible planets that suddenly become visible; teenage girls offered as human sacrifices; cities of ice with a single inhabitant; cowboys visited by angels; mass migrations destroying everything in their path; underground labyrinths swarming with warrior-monks; plots to assassinate the president of the United States; spaceships fleeing an earth in flames to colonize Jupiter; societies of telepathic killers; children growing up all alone in dark, cold yards.

  3. TK421 TK421 says:

    Few novels bring me to a place that is best described as that plane one is trapped in before waking from a very lucid dream. You know the place where you can taste the air, feel the colors, where reality and imagination are embraced so thoroughly that borders blend and realign themselves. NAZI LITERATURE IN THE AMERICAS is like that place. Bolano creates a completely fabricated world where poets and novelists and artists mingle with other characters-both fictional and real-as if they were all sitting next to you, as neighbors in a world where divisions and boundaries are merely political jargon that are refused entry into the mind. The shear depth of this world is staggering. The novel is almost a collection of individual stories; the individual stories make this a novel. How can one person be interlocked with so many others? I kept asking myself as I read. That is when I began to understand Bolano. You see, Bolano wrote in a manner that was more than storytelling; he was creating. He was making and destroying, alloting, toiling, humoring, and redefining what it means to write fiction. Does it all work? NO. But that is part of the novel's beauty. When it doesn't work that makes it all seem the more real. Life is messy. (At least mine is.) And when you stop to think about all the people that have come in and out of your life (and all of thier stories) you will begin to get an understanding and appreciation for this modest novel. To say more would only spoil the surreal entrance one gets as they read.


  4. brian brian says:

    i spend way too much time making my bookshelves pretty: pruning, arranging, designing... i'm regularly plagued by some pretty critical issues: chronologically? by author? color? size? (y'see... unlike the rest of my shitty and privileged generation who gets all pantiebunched about evil corporations & all them bombs dropped on all them brown people, i actually have serious things on the brain) i fantasize that i'm gonna bring some gorgeous woman back home (please god let it be marisa tomei and/or rosario dawson) and she'll be kind of on the fence and then when she sees all the fantastic books in my collection and how beautiful they all are she'll fuck me all night.

    and bolano's all about that. he loves books and writers more than me. more than anyone, i think. the man is kinda deranged. but it's not in some egghead annoying hermetically-sealed shut-off-from-humanity way. his books explode with cigarette-smoking scotch-swilling cafe-hanging author-referencing sex-starved book-obsessed maniacs.

    and the one above? Nazi Literature? could've been a slight literary joke. or seriously dull. but again, books are to bolano what deprivation was to larkin what daffodils were to wordsworth: life. books = life. and this book is alive with both.

  5. Barry Pierce Barry Pierce says:

    This is an encyclopedia of writers associated with the Nazi Literature movement of the 20th century, focusing mainly on those living in the Americas. It gives each writer a couple of pages of biography and discusses most of their major works. All of it is backed up by an extensive index and a vast bibliography. So far so simple yeah? Oh hell no. This is fucking Bolaño.

    Y'see, there is no such thing as Nazi Literature. It's all made up. And all of the people discussed in this book? All made up as well. This is a fictional encyclopedia. None of it is real.
    I will admit, if you haven't read any Bolaño before then this work will be completely wasted on you. This is Bolaño at his most Bolaño. It is just so weird and fun and strangely tragic. You honestly treat these fictional people as real, living writers. You become intrigued by their oeuvres only to remember it's all made up. It's utterly original and a fine antinovel. It only further elevates Bolaño to the level of a genius.

  6. Paul Paul says:

    This is a real oddity, very clever, ironic and satirical, hardly a novel; more an encyclopedia. Basically it is a list of fascist and ultra right wing authors of the Americas. Each one has a brief biography and analysis of their works, with their dates (some don't pass away until the 2020s). They are generally self deluded, often vicious, mostly mediocre and Bolano sends them all up remorselessly.
    Their fictional biographies sometimes overlap with real life; Ginsberg, Octavio Paz and Borges pop up, as does Bolano himself in a Chilean prison.
    The general madness, poetic soccer hooligans, struggling publishing houses and outright Nazis can get a little predictable, but Bolano himself explained he was talking as much about the left as the right and indeed about literature. On the whole it's a tour de force and very well written. It all hangs together; there are interrelations between the characters and Bolano pulls it off splendidly.Underneath is a very sharp analysis of fascism and its modes of thought and doctrines, laid bare by Bolano; making them seem as ridiculous as they are. Well worth the effort.

  7. Jim Coughenour Jim Coughenour says:

    This brutal little classic will be only appreciated by misfits, if they're lucky enough to discover it. It's the most recently translated novel of the late Roberto Bolaño (in another handsome edition from New Directions): a volume of invented biographies, detailing the lives and works of fascist litterateurs who never existed.

    Here is wicked humor of the highest order – but I suspect it will be opaque to anyone innocent of the cruelties of literary gossip masquerading as criticism (and as an occasional contributer, I would know). It also helps to have a cursory knowledge of the history of South American fascism, which provides the black backdrop to Bolaño's potted poisoned lives. His tone is insistently aseptic, his evaluations all the more lethal for being neutral in their execution. It's one of the sharpest, funniest books I know, but its hilarity cuts to the bone and is almost indistinguishable from grief.

  8. Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont says:

    In Nazi Literature in the Americas Roberto Bolaño - a Chilean writer who sadly died aged fifty in 2003 - has provided the perfect literary companion. It’s an exhaustive collection of pocket obituaries of all the major and many of the minor poets, writers and novelists whose political conservatism took them to the extreme right, who became Nazis or fellow travellers, all of whom were born in the Americas. It’s such a pity we do not have a European equivalent.

    I confess I had never heard of many of the poets, novelists and artists in his exhaustive anthology. No, I’ll go further: I had never heard of any of them. But perhaps that’s just the nature of the subject, that and the fact that most of them were miserable failures who came to rather bleak and lonely ends.

    For those of you who are in as much ignorance as I am over this subject the author has helpfully provided a good summary at the end. There is also a decent bibliography, with the main works of the poets, writers and novelists listed, together with their place and date of publication.

    I’m glancing over it now, as I write and as I think. My eye is immediately drawn to The Birth of the New City Force by Gustavo Borda, published in Mexico City in 2005. I pause, surprised. Obviously there is something wrong. Remember, Bolaño died in 2003. He could not possibly know about this book, first appearing two years later. It must be a misprint. But then there is Untitled, a posthumous novel by Zach Sondenstern, published in Los Angeles in 2023, thirteen years from now. Thirteen years! Bolaño could not know this; I could not know this; you could not know this.

    I apologise; I’m being deeply disingenuous, as those of you who have already read this book will know. For, you see, it’s not an encyclopedia at all: it’s a novel, though one of the strangest that you are ever likely to encounter. It’s a deadpan anthology, darkly humorous at points, bitingly ironic, of people who never existed, poems never written and novels never published. I would go further: it’s a literary zoo, a collection of people who could never exist.

    Bolaño, whom I am only just discovering, is from the same place and the same tradition as Jorge Luis Borges. We are in the same territory, in other words, as The Universal History of Infamy and Borges’ other brilliant fictions, which exist in a half-world between truth and inventiveness. Nazi Literature in the Americas, first published in Spanish in 1996, owes a considerable debt to Borges. Bolaño has the same imaginative and creative facility, if not the same economy of genius.

    His book is the world of the impish imagination; his creations for the most part grotesque and, for me, outrageously funny. There is the Brazilian Luiz Fontaine Da Souza, who writes obsessive, and eye-wateringly lengthy, multi-volume refutations of the carriers of the modern idea, from Montesquieu to Sartre ( the latter’s Being and Nothingness is a particular obsession!). There is Zach Sodenstern, the American who wrote the Gunther O’Connell series of science fiction novels, whose hero has a German Sheppard dog with telepathic powers and Nazi tendencies! And then there is my personal favourite, Carlos Ramirez Hoffman, a Chilean poet in the pay of Pinochet’s death squads, who composes poetry in the sky in a plane fitted with smoke canisters, to “write out his nightmares, which were our nightmares too, for the wind to obliterate.” I have a feeling that both the Futurists and Dadaists would have adored him!

    And so it goes on. Bolaño does not just invent people and ideas, he invents complete schools of literature, including French ‘barbaric’ writing, lead by a retired Parisian concierge much given to urinating on the novels of Stendhal! The whole thing is a great pastiche. In the sense the subject matter is almost irrelevant, in that the real explorations here are into words and ideas, to the imaginative and creative use of language in a brilliantly playful fashion. It’s the work of a literary trickster, the Loki of the imagination. The real love, the inner love, is that of books and all they have to offer.

    There is, of course, another possibility, another piece of Borges-style magic. Bolaño has created an alternate literary universe, one peopled by obsessives, cranks and literary mediocrities. Goebbels once lamented that National Socialism seemed incapable of creating great art. What he did not understand, what he could not understand, was that such a thing was impossible, because great works of art can only be created by minds that are free to roam without restriction. In the Goebbels universe the only art that could exist is that of the oddities who populate the pages of Nazi Literature in the Americas.

  9. Edward Edward says:

    I kept waiting for something - a revelation, a common thread - to draw the narrative together and bring it into focus, but there was nothing. I searched for common themes, something to unify the novel, but there is very little of this nature. It seems that the brief, fictional biographies are simply to be taken for what they are, in and of themselves. There is humour there, and intelligence, and a wild imagination, but for me these things weren't enough. I'm hesitant to reward such ambition and creativity with a low rating, and I trust Bolaño enough to believe that Nazi Literature in the Americas is a brilliantly subtle and intricate work, but I am personally too far removed from its context. Overall, it was a little too esoteric for me.

  10. AC AC says:

    This book is not for everyone - it requires that you are already in on Bolaño's prosopographical (inside) jokes (if you are, much of this is hysterical); love his jungle of proper nouns - reminiscent of Whitman or Catullus, but lusher -- and have a serious interest in understanding the pathologies of fascism and Nazism. For what Bolaño offers here is nothing less than a filleting of the psychology/pathology of fascism -- on the premise that fascism is not a doctrine (not wholly true), but a mood, a sentiment, a virus... an instinct in the soul (Maurice Bardèche), this is precisely (one of) the right approach(es). Bolaño is one of the great anti-fascist writers of our times -- and serves to warn us, from his grave, of the dangers that the fascist international (always hiding under different names and different romances) poses in the coming century.

    (For an example of what I mean by the 'lyrical' element in Nazism, see the appendices to this book - the two letters written by Cioran in the mid or early-30's that express his love, admiration, and exaltation of Hitler: -- a sentiment that proves to have been quite widespread in Romantic circles in Europe at this time. There are photos of Hitler entering Austria by car at the Anschluss, where the women lining the street are screaming orgasmically as if he were one of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.)

    Finally, regarding the lyrical fascist aesthetic, here is Susan Sontag's 1974 NYRB article on Fascinating Fascism and Leni Riefenstahl, which makes many of the essential points, and is a must read:

    And don't skip the Epilogue, with its lists of Secondary Figures and Publishing Houses... e.g.

    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 [see ad loc.]. He commanded the 20th Division, the 14th Division and the 3rd Infantry Corps. His soldiers crucified him in a village near Kishinev.


    María Teresa Greco. New Jersey, 1936 - Orlando, 2004. Argentino Schiaffino's [see ad loc.] second wife. According to eye-witnesses she was tall, thin and bony, a sort of ghost or incarnation of the will.

    The final chapter, The Infamous Ramirez Hoffman is the chapter that was expanded into Distant Star.

    I agree w/ others (William) that this is not the book to start with, for Bolaño, and think that Distant Star and Last Evenings on Earth are the place to start. But for those with the strange and requisite interests, this book has much to offer.