Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
There will soon be a stream of reviews soon due to the fact that I was reading three books at the same time, which are Your Republic is Calling You, Women Float, and The Third Reich.
The Third Reich was probably the most stale book that I have read from Bolaño, it was not very engaging and it was kind of repetitive. There is a reason why though, it’s due to the main character, Udo Berger’s obsessive nature. Most of the novel takes place in Spain, where there is a hotel that Udo has spent most of his childhood vacations. Udo and Ingeborg take a vacation and meet Charly and Hanna who pretty much made a relaxing vacation turn into a horror show. There are also some odd characters like El Quemado, and The Wolf and the Lamb. Most of the book consists of Udo obsessing over his board game, The Third Reich, and a woman from his childhood, Frau Else, and the mysterious El Quemado. However, the death of Charly causes everything to fall apart, the hotel owners become suspicious of Udo, and everyone he loves leaves him behind, while Udo seems to be latching onto his past and his selfishness.
This novel is very slow and a bit of a bore, but as you get into the middle and the end, you start to realize that Udo is one crazy dude. His obsession causes his downfall until the end, where he finally leaves the hotel, his past, and finally decides to change his mind and toss everything to the side. I will admit that I skimmed through the board game parts and only paid attention to the story and the conversations. The board game parts were repetitive and mechanical, since Udo and El Quemado are practically playing a war game where you move pieces and plan out your moves. Udo literally spent all of his days in Spain playing board games and obsessing over Frau Else. Only occasionally does he walk and explore the hotel and tries to get his questions answered about El Quemado or Frau Else’s barely existent husband.
What scares me about this novel was how delusional and almost emotionless Udo was. He doesn’t seem to care about anything but his game, he never realizes until the end that his obsession with this hotel and his board game has caused a rift between his relationship with his girlfriend, Ingeborg, his friend Conrad, his own job. This whole novel is written as a journal by Udo himself, and you can see his craziness, his never ending love of The Third Reich and his constant lust for Frau Else and even a maid name Clarita. He doesn’t care if people died or if the hotel workers hate him, all he wants to do his play his board game with El Quemado, and keep a tight grip of his childhood past that doesn’t even exist anymore due to the never ending flow of time.