Roberto Bolaño has always fascinated me with his works – absurd, odd, strange, surreal and brutal at times, he ensured that he left a legacy that his fans will never forget and from this emerges his new book, ‘The Third Reich’.
The Third Reich in bits and pieces did remind me of Ian McEwan’s, ‘The Comfort of Strangers’, but barring the basic plot was where the similarity ended. This book was discovered after his death and apparently quite complete, it is his early work. This work has been beautifully translated by Natasha Wimmer. There are traces of immense surrealism in this one, which Bolaño would later use and implement in The Savage Detectives and 2666.
The Third Reich centers on Udo Berger, a German in his mid-twenties, who is taking a vacation with his girlfriend in a beach hotel on the Costa Brava, where he has spent many a vacation with his family as a child. Together with another German couple, they engage in the usual activities – swimming, eating, drinking, sunbathing and making love. However, this vacation is not what either of the couple thought it would turn out to be. All is not well in paradise. They are involved with a local sinister group, called, The Wolf, The Lamb and El Quemado (the burnt one), a South-American immigrant who hires pedal boats on the beach. The four individuals are further taken in by acts of off-stage violence which results in a death and that changes the complete course of events.
The title of the book surprisingly (or not) comes from a game called, “The Third Reich” that Udo plays in a hotel room which becomes something more. I think Roberto Bolaño was obsessed with Germany in many ways. Many of his books deal with German Literature and he also deals with German History in a very peculiar manner.
The novel is delightful. It depicts the war-game scenario to the open, signaling its peculiarities in a poetic, stylistic manner. The book is strange and at the same time it does what it has to – entraps the reader into it. I would highly recommend this book to Roberto’s fans and also to the ones who have never read him.