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The Polish Boxerby Eduardo Halfon
Synopses & Reviews
The Polish Boxer covers a vast landscape of human experience while enfolding a search for origins: a grandson tries to make sense of his Polish grandfather's past and the story behind his numbered tattoo; a Serbian classical pianist longs for his forbidden heritage; a Mayan poet is torn between his studies and filial obligations; a striking young Israeli woman seeks answers in Central America; a university professor yearns for knowledge that he can't find in books and discovers something unexpected at a Mark Twain conference. Drawn to what lies beyond the range of reason, they all reach for the beautiful and fleeting, whether through humor, music, poetry, or unspoken words. Across his encounters with each of them, the narrator — a Guatemalan literature professor and writer named Eduardo Halfon — pursues his most enigmatic subject: himself.
Mapping the geography of identity in a world scarred by a legacy of violence and exile, The Polish Boxer marks the debut of a major new Latin American voice in English.
"The main character in The Polish Boxer is named Eduardo Halfon, a Guatemalan writer and literature professor not unlike the book's author, with the same name and biography. Thus right away, we're in the murky half-light where fiction meets memoir meets memory and the impossibility thereof. It's interesting territory, but it's not immediately clear what that slippage does to enhance the loose skein of past and present events that befall Eduardo. What it does do is provide a built-in explanation for the lack of tidiness: these are the stories of life, not those of the more manufactured fictional version, the book suggests. Whether the stories are true is beside the point: they're interesting in their own right. Eduardo suffers the bored contempt of his students; discovers the Mayan world that makes up the other Guatemala; finally learns the story of how his grandfather survived Auschwitz; and in the longest section, meets a traveling half-Serbian, half-Gypsy musician and then goes to Serbia to try to track him down. At the end, when his grandfather, the canny or lucky survivor, dies, and Halfon delivers a talk on how 'literature tears through reality,' we come meandering back to the questions that, as we now understand, animate this book: the question of survival (of both people and cultures) and the way the fictional makes the real bearable and intelligible, if not always neat. Agent: Andrea Montejo, the Indent Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Funny and revelatory." New York Times Book Review
"Deeply accessible, deeply moving." Los Angeles Times
"A professor mentors a student, gains wisdom from a Mark Twain scholar and searches for a Gypsy musician, and thats only part of the story in this incredible, achingly real yet enigmatic novel." San Francisco Chronicle
"Tight and lean...falling somewhere between the novels of Roberto Bolaño, WG Sebald, and Junot Díaz." Telegraph (UK)
"[The Polish Boxer] exists in the no-mans-land between fiction and memoir. In the end, we decide, this is fable: only the stories are important." Guardian (UK)
"This book provides multiple pleasures: clear, intense prose; sharp, laugh-out-loud depictions of classrooms and conferences...and the apparent seamlessness of the translations....The book itself gives a resounding retort to those who might dismiss it as 'another book 'about the Holocaust." Jewish Journal
"Halfon passionately and lyrically illustrates the significance of the journey and the beauty of true mystery. The Polish Boxer is sublime and arresting, and will linger with readers who will be sure to revisit it again and again." Booklist (starred review)
"Highly readable and engaging...provides readers food for thought about the nature of literary creations." Library Journal
"Brilliant...opens with one of the best classroom scenes I've ever read." Shelf Awareness for Readers
"In the simplest explanation, The Polish Boxer is a series of encounters for literature professor Eduardo
"Eduardo Halfon has been deemed one of the best young Latin American writers by the Hay Festival of Bogota; read his first work to be translated into English, The Polish Boxer, and you'll see why." Shelf Unbound
"A brave and touching and dead stylish examination of the nature of fiction, truth and lies." Dazed and Confused (UK)
"Halfon's curiosity about his grandfathers experience in a concentration camp burns through every chapter from the most subtle level to deep investigation....He has succeeded in warping a modern Balkan mystery into a Holocaust memoir...intrinsically blend[ing] fiction with reality in a deeply visceral way." Rumpus
"Eduardo Halfon is a brilliant storyteller, whose gifts are displayed on every page of this beautiful, daring, and deeply humane book." Daniel Alarcón, author of War by Candlelight and Lost City Radio
"Eduardo Halfon's prose is delicate, precise, and as ineffable as precocious art — a lighthouse that illuminates everything." Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name
"The Polish Boxer is the most memorable new novel I have read all year — the voice pitch-perfect, the imagery indelible. What a wonderful writer." Norman Lebrecht, author of The Song of Names
The English-language debut of a major Latin American writer.
About the Author
Eduardo Halfon was born in Guatemala City, moved to the U.S. at the age of ten, went to school in South Florida, studied Industrial Engineering at North Carolina State University, and then returned to Guatemala to teach literature for eight years at Universidad Francisco Marroquín. Named one of best young Latin American writers by the Hay Festival of Bogotá, he is also the recipient of the prestigious José María de Pereda Prize for the Short Novel and has published ten previous books of fiction in Spanish. In 2011 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on continuing the story of The Polish Boxer, which is inspired by his own family history and is the first of his novels to be published in English. Halfon currently lives in Nebraska and travels frequently to Guatemala.
In consultation with the author, The Polish Boxer was translated from the Spanish by an accomplished international team of five: Ollie Brock, Thomas Bunstead, Lisa Dillman, Daniel Hahn, and Anne McLean.
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