A "biographical dictionary" gathering 30 brief accounts of poets, novelists and editors (all fictional) who espouse fascist or extremely right-wing political views. Nazi Literature in the Americas
was the first of Roberto Bolano's books to reach a wide public. When it was published by Seix Barral in 1996, 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 right-wing ideologies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is a tour de force of black humor and imaginary erudition. Nazi 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 Pérez Masón, for example, in the sample included here, is an imaginary member of the real Orígenes group in Cuba, and his farcical clashes with José Lezama Lima recall stories about the spats between Lezama Lima and Virgilio Pinera, 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 (8) and the USA (7).
Amazon Significant Seven, February 2008: As with the emergence of W.G. Sebald into English a decade ago, the most exciting new writer to watch is one we're just catching up with: the late Roberto Bolaño, whose ground-breaking fiction defined a generation of Spanish-speaking literature. In between last year's thrillingly meandering epic, The Savage Detectives, and the upcoming alleged masterwork, 2666, comes a small and strange book (but no stranger than the rest), Nazi Literature in the Americas. Presented as a biographical encyclopedia of right-wing writers in North and South America, these short, invented lives are full of the stuff of minor literary scenes and forgotten books, with delusion and creation mixed in equal fashion. Funny, melancholy, surprisingly tender, and--once in a while--erupting into fury, Bolaño spins out tale after tale with the joy of sheer invention and the burden of inescapable history. --Tom Nissley