The stream of posthumously published (or at least posthumously translated) works by the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, who died in 2003, shows no sign of abating, as evidenced by the recent publication of The Third Reich (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Although the book itself contains no information on the background I did a bit of research and learned that it was apparently written in or around 1989. It was left in a longhand manuscript in the author's papers, along with about sixty pages which had been typed, indicating at least some intention that the book be published, though I found no explanation of why it remained in the desk drawer for the remainder of Bolaño's life. Be that as it may, it is now being taken by many critics as a real masterpiece, to stand behind The Savage Detectives and 2666.
But there is another, non-human character: a board game called "The Third Reich" in which the players replay the military battles fought by the belligerents in World War II. There are apparently national and international leagues and competitions of those who play this game, of which Udo is a master; indeed part of Udo's purpose on this vacation is to write essays about the game and to prepare for a competition scheduled for not long after it. He is apparently brilliant at coming up with schemes and maneuvers that would change the outcome of the war, although he is not a neo-Nazi.
Ingeborg mostly wants to be at the beach and shop, and the other couple mostly wants to carouse, and although Udo joins them quite a bit he cannot ultimately put the game out of his mind and eventually it completely overwhelms him; the game that he eventually plays — after the others have all left — with El Quemado turns out to become a shattering matter of life or death.
One of the most amazing things about Bolaño as a writer is his ability, chameleon-like, to assume the identity — or at least the nationality — of a totally different person, in this case of a German writer writing about German people. I genuinely defy anyone who could read the book without knowing the author's name and history to identify it as the work of a South American living in Spain. He did quite the same in the last part of 2666 and again in Monsieur Pain (where one would naturally assume the author to have been French). This book is a remarkable achievement, self-recommending to Bolaño's fans and an excellent introduction to his work for those who do not yet know it.
— Jeremy Nussbaum