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Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon

Polish Boxer (edition 2012)

by Eduardo Halfon (Author), Daniel Hahn (Translator), Ollie Brock (Translator), Lisa Dillman (Translator), Thomas Bunstead (Translator)1 more, Anne McClean (Translator)

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10226118,402 (4.19)67
Title:Polish Boxer
Authors:Eduardo Halfon (Author)
Other authors:Daniel Hahn (Translator), Ollie Brock (Translator), Lisa Dillman (Translator), Thomas Bunstead (Translator), Anne McClean (Translator)
Info:Bellvue Literary Press; Uncorrected Proof, to be publishen in October 2012; First Edition; Paperback; originally published in Spanish in 2008.
Collections:Read, Early Reviewer's via LibraryThing.com
Tags:Guatamala, Cultural, autobio-fction, gypsy, Serbia, Auschwitz, Poland, Jews, racial prejudice, racial intolerance; jazz

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The Polish boxer by Eduardo Halfon



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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Great writing, but not my idea of a novel! Aside from the man in character, what was the coalescing element? I couldn't find it. It was like a corn maze - hold on to the right hand wall and you will get out. In this case, believe that the main character has some way of leading you through the stories and you may see this book as a novel. Why not just call them short stories? Once again, I thought the author was a talented writer. The form is the question. ( )
1 vote aslan7 | Oct 3, 2014 |
Memories, the stories we tell, are the oral literature of families, communities, peoples. Are they always real and true? What happens when we try to put them in writing? Is reality torn, even shredded, and then put back together?

After reading the first few chapters of this book, it seemed to be a collection of linked stories, one of my favorite literary forms. As it continued, some of the links were a bit weak, but the stories were interesting and well told. In addition, there were stories within the stories, another device I love. Finally, I realized these are not stand-alone stories. It is a novel with a definite theme, not fully revealed until the final chapters.

This is a delightful exploration of translating reality into literature, and how our stories become mysterious and mythical in their telling and retelling.

I received this book from the publisher as an extra when I won another book (Monastery) by the same author in a LibraryThing Early Reviewers giveaway. I read this one first because it was the first published. I can’t wait to start the other book. I hope it is as good as this one. ( )
  seeword | Sep 28, 2014 |
For some reason I couldn't stop thinking about Jean-Claude Izzo (1945-2000), author of Marseille Trilogy, while I was reading this book. It was as if the writer Eduardo Halfon--a Guatemalan Jew living in the US--was the literary incarnation of Izzo--a French son of an Italian/Spanish immigrant family living in Marseille. It’s the rhythm of the words; the way both writers reverently cite poets, jazz and gypsy musicians, and books and how they describe making love to women any how they drink beer and wine. Plus the subject matter--immigrants and oddball outsiders living in foreign countries--is similar, somehow. Though Izzo is most notably known for his crime novels, Halfon’s The Polish Boxer is more a cultural collage of people and places. Well-written. Very interesting, especially the stories about the narrator's encounters while traveling in Belgrade when he was trying to track down a concert pianist who he had met in Antigua, Guatemala. ( )
  authorknows | Jan 30, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really enjoyed this thoughtful, introspective narrative, where the author's encounters with several fascinating and oddball characters cause him and the reader to reflect on our own desires and place in the world. It gave me a similar feeling to reading Catcher in the Rye. ( )
  yesssman | Dec 30, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In The Polish Boxer Eduard Halfon brilliantly demonstrates our compulsive, often feeble, attempts at capturing life's passions in narrative, verse, drawing and music. He shows us the extent to which artists and academics are barely equipped to nail that ding an sich in their life's work. It's as if the endeavor of matching art to life is like blindly chasing a friend whom has hidden among the gypsies.

Halfon has an existentialist, even surrealist, sense of the world. The crushing demands of poverty, facing the executioner, sex, at once stand as signposts of intense experience but nonetheless remain enigmatic and elusive. Life may consume us he seems to say but it is also bizarre and funny, even a little embarrassing, like a dream only half remembered. The seemingly irresistible moments pass through us and past us. We hardly grasp their meaning. We may chase after permanence, seeking confidence in memory and a lasting understanding. At times we find threads that anchor our perspective. Yet, the persistent theme of our lives seems to be that our most important experiences are unexpected and brief. The rest evaporates or disappears like the smoke on the book's cover. Still, we appear in the next moment changed a little.

The Polish Boxer presents a deeply personal diary of fevered dreams and chance encounters. One is reminded of Roberto Bolano's self-mythologizing in The Savage Detectives. Like Bolano's master work, here too, one finds the art-and-artist chase, the mystery of disappearance and the earnest yearning to catch up. With what? Ah, that's the rub!

This is a book of which Halfon may be proud. It is not a great work, like Bolano's, but it stands as a serious artistic statement. It is short, not especially taut, but intriguing and worth every moment. I look forward to more from this author. ( )
2 vote lacenaire | Jun 27, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Eduardo Halfon is the author of 11 books, but “The Polish Boxer” is his first to be translated into English, by, as it happens, five translators. This seems less a testament to the difficulty of the novel than a playful nod to one of its central preoccupations: how translation is a form of writing and writing is a form of translation. It is the sort of concern that can easily become ponderous in the wrong hands; in Halfon’s, it is funny and revelatory.
“These are the stories of life . . . the question of survival (of both people and cultures) and the way the fictional makes the real bearable and intelligible.”
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"I have moved the typewriter into the next room where I can see myself in the mirror as I write."—Henry Miller
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I was pacing among them, moving up and down between the rows of desks as if trying to find my way out of a labyrinth. We were reading from a Ricardo Piglia essay. We read about the dual nature of the short story, and it didn’t surprise me, as I looked out, to be met with a sea of faces covered in acne and heartfelt bewilderment.
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Book description
The Polish Boxer is a semi-autobiographical tale about roots and origins: the subtly subversive longing for lost identity, the emotionally treacherous territory of cultural exile, and the lingering legacy of history’s atrocities. As the narrator—a Guatemalan literature professor and writer named Eduardo Halfon—travels from small Mayan villages to a Scottish bar in Antigua, and from a Mark Twain conference in North Carolina through the memories of his Polish grandfather’s nightmare at Auschwitz and to a Gypsy neighborhood in Serbia, he encounters people whose stories are as rich and diverse as the languages they speak.

Revelatory, courageous, and full of humor, the narrator’s voice is finely attuned to the ways we use language to make art, conversation, music, and love—revealing the nuances of desire and suffering always just below the surface of human interaction. Despite his protest that “Literature is no more than a good trick . . . making reality appear whole, creating the illusion that reality is a single unified thing,” every word in this slim novel is a testament to literature’s power to reveal truths that range well beyond the boundaries of academic reason.
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"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."--Back cover.… (more)

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