The posthumous publication of reknown Chilean author Roberto Bolano’s (tilda on the n) works are legion. They are discovered like dead sea scrolls. “The Third Reich”, a novel he wrote in 1989, was published in 2011. It is not a bad novel; but neither is it a find at an estate sale.
While the story is absorbing, I did not have any feeling about the characters, nor find a purpose for the story. The prose, at least in translation, is no more distinguished than the plot.
Udo Berger and his German girlfriend Ingeborg vacation at a Costa Brava hotel where Udo’s family went when he was a child. Udo is the German champion in the board game “Third Reich”, which re-imagines the military strategies of the Allies and Axis countries on the Western Front during WWII. His part-time job is to develop and write about new strategies for the game, and much to the chagrin of Ingeborg, he is spends most of the time in the hotel room, save for clubbing with a more wild German couple and some locals, Wolf and Lamb, that they met. He also is fascinated by Quemado, a burn victim vendor of pedal boats, who lives under his boats on the beach. He engages Quemado in the game. With surreptious coaching from the hotel matron’s dying German husband Quemado becomes successful. Udo has an unfulfilled relationship with the matron, who warns him to leave after after the unexplained death of their windsurfing German friend, Ingeborg completes her holiday and returns home. There is slight sexual tension and physical tension, perhaps mostly in Udo’s mind, as he begins to mentally disintegrate while he remains on the Costa Brava to ostensibly to resolve the friend’s death, or to consummate the affair with the matron.
The novel could have used more editing to develop a rationale, other than maturation of Udo. It is a decent beach read, but no more.