Synopses & Reviews
On vacation with his girlfriend, Ingeborg, the German war games champion Udo Berger returns to a small town on the Costa Brava where he spent the summers of his childhood. Soon they meet another vacationing German couple, Charly and Hanna, who introduce them to a band of locals — the Wolf, the Lamb, and El Quemado — and to the darker side of life in a resort town.
Late one night, Charly disappears without a trace, and Udos well-ordered life is thrown into upheaval; while Ingeborg and Hanna return to their lives in Germany, he refuses to leave the hotel. Soon he and El Quemado are enmeshed in a round of Third Reich, Udo's favorite World War II strategy game, and Udo discovers that the games consequences may be all too real.
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.
"Many hallmarks of Bolaño's work are present in this novel, written in 1989 and found among his papers after his death in 2003. Presented in diary-like entries over a two-month span late in an unspecified year after WWII, the book follows the unstable Udo Berger, a man who veers between love and hate and is barely able to control his violent impulses. Udo has come from Stuttgart with his girlfriend, Ingeborg, to the Costa Brava in Spain where he vacationed a decade before. A self-absorbed, egotistical autodidact war game champion, Udo obsessively plays a strategy game called the Third Reich while Ingeborg enjoys the beach with Charly and Hanna, another German couple they've met, and three local characters: the Wolf, the Lamb, and a badly burned beach worker called El Quemado. Charly goes for a swim and disappears, and Udo makes advances on the hotel manager, an older woman who calls his game 'obscene... horrible... tasteless.' Udo soon lures El Quemado to play and events turn feverish and surreal; the novice defeats Udo, symbolically repeating the Nazis' downfall. Infused with unease and menace, deliberately ambiguous about reality vs. perception, Bolaño's novel is a psychological thriller without a convincing payoff. Its atmosphere, however, clearly prefigures the preoccupations of the author's later masterpieces." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Novelists tend to be remembered for their most remarkable characters, and in Udo Berger, Bolaño has created someone complex, sometimes frustrating and absolutely unforgettable....Compassionate, disturbing and deeply felt, [The Third Reich is] as much of a gift as anything the late author has given us." Michael Schaub, NPR
"Bolaño was a writer with tricks up his sleeve, and he distributed his wiles across many genres: novellas, poetry, short stories, essays and the epic 1,100-page 2666. So what's The Third Reich like? Capering, weird, rascally and short. Imagine a cross between Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, the CLUE board game and a wargames fanzine. Its a scathing novel with a lot of exuberance to it, not unlike the man who wrote it....The Third Reich is giddily funny, but it is also prickly and bizarre enough to count among Bolaño's first-rate efforts." The Economist
A New York Times Book Review
On vacation with his girlfriend, Ingeborg, the German war-game champion Udo Berger returns to a small town on the Costa Brava where he spent his summers as a child. There, they meet another vacationing German couple, who introduce them to the darker side of the resort towns life. Soon Udo is enmeshed in a round of the Third Reich, his favorite World War II strategy game, with a shadowy local called El Quemado. As the game draws to its conclusion, Udo discovers that the outcome may be all too real.
Written in 1989, The Third Reich is a stunning exploration of memory and violence — and a rare glimpse at a world-class writer coming into his own.
About the Author
Roberto Bolaño was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1953. He grew up in Chile and Mexico City, where he was a founder of the Infrarealist poetry movement. He is the author of The Savage Detectives
, which received the Herralde Prize and the Rómulo Gallegos Prize, and 2666
, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Bolaño died in Blanes, Spain, at the age of fifty.
Natasha Wimmer has translated many works of fiction and nonfiction by Spanish language authors, including Mario Vargas Llosa, Laura Restrepo, and Rodrigo Fresán, as well as Roberto Bolaño.