Mike Puma's Reviews > The Third Reich
by Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer
bookshelves: bolaño, lit-fic, chilean-author, 2011
Goddammit! I’m pissed, pissed and a little troubled. I just finished The Third Reich, within the half-hour. I’m not one to pore over what I’ve just read—rehashing the ‘what did it means’ or a book’s merits or flaws, I like it or don’t, set a course and run with it. A hastily formed first impression, whether with books or people, is good enough for me. Opinionated, I suppose, but it’s me.
So, what do I make of The Third Reich? What indeed? Part of me, the part I favor, tells me this is every bit as sophisticated, well-planned and executed, mature, all the favorable superlatives I dole on most of the other Bolaños. Yet, part of me is bugged (buggered?) by one little paragraph on the flyleaf and in the GR summary for the title:
Written in 1989 and found among Roberto Bolaño’s papers after his death, The Third Reich is a stunning exploration of memory and violence. Reading this quick, visceral novel, we see a world-class writer coming into his own—and exploring for the first time the themes that would define his masterpieces The Savage Detectives and 2666.Particularly troublesome is the feeling that FSG lost control of a message or THE message with the phrases “found among Roberto Bolaño’s papers after his death” and “see a world-class writer coming into his own” with an implicit ‘immature’ ‘abandoned’ ‘rejected’ or ‘unfinished.’
A cursory look at the dates in the Wikipedia entry for Bolaño would suggest this is the first novel he wrote, with only a couple of the poems from The Romantic Dogs written earlier, though published in book form much later. Who knows? Bolaño always considered himself, first-and-foremost, a poet. Until I know otherwise, I prefer to believe that TTR was never lost among his papers, but rather, held onto, perhaps reworked, tweaked, handled like a first-born child—left to be discovered at some future time, left to be discovered by me.
To further romanticize this one, I really prefer to believe that this one is a game, akin to The Third Reich game that the protagonist immerses himself in. If that is, in fact, the case, then my apologies to FSG (one of my favorite publishers) for a teasing ‘found among the papers’—whatever else, I do not want to believe that this is merely something publishable mined from the surviving papers of RB (an unfortunate feeling given some of the ND titles that have surfaced recently). Given the mediocre reviews that have appeared to date, consider this one for what it’s worth—the thoughts of a die-hard RB fan. Hope you like it.