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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

Chapter 3 - The Novel’s Regimes Made Visible

from Part One


Written in 1989, The Third Reich commemorates the end of the post-World War II period in which Bolaño had until then lived his entire life. In play at every level, the associative chain reality=fiction=metafiction figures the aestheticizing complicity of a novelist’s decision to turn the historical Third Reich into the boardgame “The Third Reich” that lies at the heart of The Third Reich the novel. While the accommodations the novel makes to more familiar, popular, marketable modes of narration place it among the least experimental, more conventional of Bolaño’s works, its rendering and making visible of convergent regimes of the aesthetic and political merits the reader’s full attention. The central questions it raises about the legacies of German romanticism, through its rewriting of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, echo in the instrumentalizing reproduction, circulation, and distribution of ready-made commercial genres of all kinds that increasingly organize and shape aesthetic experience according to familiar marketing niches across all media. In its resistance to, but also complicity with, the futility of novelistic gamesmanship, the literary, intermedial game The Third Reich both embraces and contests an instrumentalizing, commodifying aesthetics.