Roberto Bolano died in 2003 but left behind four completed novels, including his masterpiece 2666, a book whose physical size is matched only by the enormity of its critical acclaim. A relatively slimmer affair, The Third Reich consists of diary entries taken by Udo Berger, the German champion of war strategy games, as he holidays in Spain with his girlfriend Ingeborg. Soon Udo starts a game of Third Reich against El Quemado, a deformed figure who sleeps on the beach. Looking down on the soldiers, dictating what moves they will make, Udo comes to represent the Author. Reminiscent of the game of chess played in The Seventh Seal, their match gets increasing intense as it becomes apparent that there is considerably more at stake – for Udo and for literature itself – than mere pride. This is subtly-told lament for the death of literature. I just can’t figure out whether it’s fitting or not that it comes from a writer almost ten years dead.
Words: Kevin Breathnach