Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ` literature, which is a surreptitious form of violence, ..', 20 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Nazi Literature in the Americas (Hardcover)
At first glance, this book does not appear to be a novel. Instead, it looks like a collection of richly detailed obituaries and bibliographic notes. These could be real people - and that is Bolaño's point entirely. What we read here as fiction could well be representative of literature in an alternate world. While some of the characters depicted are outlandish, others are unsettlingly plausible. Those of us with limited knowledge of 20th century literature in the Americas could well accept fiction as truth, at least for a while.

Fortunately, if you follow the biographical details of the authors carefully, it becomes clear that what could be fact is definitely fiction. While this is a relief, by that stage in the book the possibility of fact has emerged and I found myself wondering about the power of fiction and the role of literature in politics.
The most unsettling of the entries is `The Infamous Ramírez Hoffman'. This is a far longer entry and refers as well to a character named Bolaño who is asked to identify Ramírez Hoffman, a Chilean poet who had been employed by Pinochet's death squads. Here, for a moment at least, the line between fact and fiction is blurred. By introducing himself as a character, Roberto Bolaño grounds this novel in a way which is a confronting reminder of a political reality. And so, neatly, the circle is closed.

Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) was a Chilean poet and novelist. This is the first of his books I have read. It was first published in Spanish in 1996 and in English in 2008. I will be seeking out his other novels.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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3.3 out of 5 stars (38 customer reviews)
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Location: ACT, Australia

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