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The Polish Boxer

by Eduardo Halfon

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2043896,698 (3.93)90
"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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» See also 90 mentions

English (37)  French (1)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Not sure how I feel about this one, and it's all due to the protagonist. ( )
  KatrinkaV | Dec 30, 2018 |
3.5 stars. The Polish Boxer is a lovely novel-in-stories that looks at the slipperiness of nationality and identity: Halfon crosses lots of geographical and psychological borders, setting his stories (told by Eduardo Halfon) in places like Guatemala, Serbia, and North Carolina. The result is puzzlingly satisfying.

(There's more on my blog, here.) ( )
  LizoksBooks | Dec 15, 2018 |
I had to reread some of this book before I could review - to me it was not an easy read - translated from Spanish to English - there are several, interconnected short stories that seem to be the author's fiction memoir, a Guatemalan literature professor - some serious topics about exploring the meaning of life... ( )
1 vote Jjean7 | May 15, 2017 |
Eduardo Halfon's first novel was a pleasure to read, and so full of spectacular images that I know my thoughts will return to his stories often. Though his style is straightforward, and some of his language distinctly commonplace, his approach works, as the occasional forays into more philosophical or contemplative domains do not overwhelm. In other words he knows how to season the food so that it is neither too salty nor too spicy nor too plain. I was reminded several times of Roberto Bolano; the comparison does not hurt Mr Halfon. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Oct 11, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
“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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"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.

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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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