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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 Udo’s 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 game’s 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.
“Novelists have been smashing high and low together for a century, but Bolaño does it with the force of a supercollider.”—Daniel Zalewski, The New Yorker
“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 war-games fanzine. It’s 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
“[Bolaño] makes you feel changed for having read him; he adjusts your angle of view on the world.”—Ben Richards, The Guardian (UK)
“[Bolaño’s] work . . . is as vital, thrilling and life-enhancing as anything in modern fiction.”—Christopher Goodwin, The Sunday Times (London)
“When I read Bolaño I think: Everything is possible again.”—Nicole Krauss
“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
“Not since Gabriel García Márquez . . . has a Latin American redrawn the map of world literature so emphatically as Roberto Bolaño does . . . It’s no exaggeration to call him a genius.”—Ilan Stavans, The Washington Post Book World
“[Bolaño] has the natural storyteller’s gift—but more important, he has the power to lend an extraordinary glamour to the activities of making love and making poetry.”—Edmund White
“A successor to Borges, García Márquez, and Julio Cortázar.”—Siddhartha Deb, Harper’s Magazine
“The most influential and admired novelist of his generation.”—Susan Sontag
"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 . . . 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