MADRID – In what figures to be among the most significant literary events this year in Spain, Anagrama has released the previously unpublished first novel by late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño.
Appearing at bookstores on Thursday, six and a half years after the acclaimed author’s death, “El Tercer Reich” (The Third Reich) will subsequently be published in the coming weeks in Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela, among other Latin American countries, sources with the Spanish publishing company told Efe.
The novel, typewritten and then hand-corrected by Bolaño (1953-2003) in 1989, was first shown to publishers in 2008 at the Frankfurt Book Fair after being dug up by his literary agent, Andrew Wylie, known as “the Jackal.”
Many of his recurring themes were already present in this debut novel, including “the strange forms and deformations of Nazism or (the idea) that culture (games or literature) is reality,” Anagrama said.
“El Tercer Reich” is written in the form of a diary and features as protagonist a 25-year-old German named Udo Berger who is a war-games enthusiast and champion in his homeland, where he writes articles on the subject in specialist journals.
Berger travels to Spain’s Costa Brava on vacation and stays at the Hotel del Mar, where he spent his summers as a child; he is accompanied by his girlfriend, Ingeborg, on what is their first trip together.
Udo also has other plans and asks for a round table to be set up in their room so he can lay out a giant board game known as “The Third Reich” and prepare for an international competition. Meanwhile, the two vacationers meet a young German couple – Charly and Hanna – who are staying at the same hotel and the four make plans to go out together.
After a night of drinking, they go down to the beach and Charly disappears in the ocean. He comes back after he had been given up for missing, but his return touches off further intrigue and mystery in this novel in which the line between war games and reality becomes blurred.
Bolaño, a novelist and poet, has risen in stature since his death and is now regarded as one of the great Latin American authors in recent years. His posthumously published novel, “2666,” received special acclaim in the United States in 2008, four years after it was released in Spanish.
The New York Times Book Review, which featured the sprawling 900-page novel on its cover, described the work as a captivating and Bolaño as a “talismanic figure ... in the literary culture of the United States,” while Time magazine declared “2666” the best book of the year in 2008.
The novel also won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Numerous awards also were conferred on Bolaño during his lifetime, including the prestigious Romulo Gallegos Prize in 1998 for his novel “Los detectives salvajes” (The Savage Detectives).
The Chilean writer died in Barcelona on July 15, 2003, of liver failure while he was waiting for a transplant. EFE