This is the second book of Bolano’s that I have read, and I can happily report that his voice and vision shows through.
Nazi Literature in the Americas is a work of fiction, best read as a novel. It presents itself as an anthology of nazi authors in the Americas; it does so with mock seriousness. As the book progresses, it becomes gradually more novelistic, ending with a climatic story that includes the author himself in a mysterious chase of one of the “nazi” authors.
The ‘anthology’ aspect is well done. It’s clever and witty in a way that is both subtle and insightful. The fact that Bolano can create a huge library of individual biographies that all seem completely real is impressive in itself, not to mention quite entertaining. A bibliophile’s dream.
The larger themes are remarkably consistent with the other work of Bolano’s that I have read, The Savage Detectives. Bolano loves the idea of literary circles and trends and fashions. He loves literary style and the philosophy and popularity and ego contests that often lie beneath the words. Thus his works abound with minor literary figures published in obscure poetry magazines, and giants of literature and popular taste which both know and at the same time do not know what they are doing.
And deeply buried beneath it all is the ultimate Bolanoism: the quest for True Art. In the morass of people entering and leaving the literature scene, there will always be a few characters that, in their own unique way, will chase after True Art. It’s hard to describe this; this goes beyond mere popularity or financial success, or even fame. It does not mean being the guy who writes a future classic. The True Artist making the True Art is always mysterious; always on the run and searching for something in his own quite way. Bolano never says “character X” is making the True Art and this is a story about someone trying to find True Artist X”. No, it’s more like Character Y seeks character X, and while nothing concrete is known (and for that matter can be known), there is this possibility – this whiff of authenticity – that Character Y is drawn towards.
This theme is very strong in both The Savage Detectives and Nazi Literature in the Americas.
This book is very unique and enjoyable. You will very much appreciate this book if you are a serious reader and bibliophile.