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Monastery by Eduardo Halfon


by Eduardo Halfon

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6517281,573 (4.21)28
"In Monastery, the nomadic narrator of Eduardo Halfon's critically-acclaimed The Polish Boxer returns to travel from Guatemalan cities, villages, coffee plantations, and border towns to a private jazz concert in New York's Harlem, a former German U-Boat base on the French Breton coast, and Israel, where he escapes from his sister's Orthodox Jewish wedding into an erotic adventure with the enigmatic Tamara. His passing encounters are unforgettable; his relationships, problematic. At once a world citizen and a writer who mistrusts the power of language, he is pursued by history's ghosts and unanswerable questions. He is a cartographer of identity on a compelling journey to an uncertain destination. As he draws and redraws his boundaries, he confronts us with the limitations of our own. Eduardo Halfon was named one of the best young Latin American writers by the Hay Festival of Bogota and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the prestigious Jose; Maria de Pereda Prize for the Short Novel. The Polish Boxer, his first book to appear in English, was a New York Times Editor's Choice selection and finalist for the International Latino Book Award. Halfon currently lives in Nebraska and frequently travels to Guatemala. "--… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
This is Halfon's follow up to his , The Polish Boxer, and he continues the story of his heritage and journey through life. As he states in this book, "in the end, our history is our only patrimony".

He follows his sister to Israel for her wedding to an orthodox Jew and comes face to face with his own atheism and conflicts with his Jewish identity. In a recurring dream he hides his Jewish identity to elude a Palestinian terrorist and relates tales of Jews who survived the Nazi regime, one of them Jerzy Kosinski. He does this without judgment, "everyone decides how to save themselves...with whatever it takes, whatever makes the most sense to us, whatever hurts the least...but we all act out the role of our best disguise...in the end, no one is saved".

His adventure with an Israeli stewardess he first met in a bar in Guatemala serves as an interlude, his groping for truth while also dealing his sexual appetites.

Halfon is a heavy thinker, bringing historically interesting tidbits, to better illustrate his often cynical viewpoint on the true meanings of life.

I highly recommend him. If you like Junot Diaz, you will enjoy Eduardo Halfon's unique voice. ( )
  berthirsch | Jun 1, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Literary fiction by a highly regarded Latin American writer. This book continues the geographic and personal quests of the narrator in The Polish Boxer. He stays on the move. Indeed it seems that he is almost compelled to move from persons to places. Place seems to give him a degree of repose not to be found in persons. Arriving and leaving also allows for a degree of shape-shifting, as he frequently cloaks his presentation of self. The author's name serves to designate the narrator so we can only conclude that the encounters described are a blend of memoir and fiction. A persona that persists is the teacher/academic with a strong interest in literature. The text is translated from the Spanish by two well qualified language scribes. ( )
  camsend | Oct 25, 2015 |
I've read both Monastery and The Polish Boxer, and Halfon has become one of my favorite authors. Structurally, each chapter of two books is a separate short story that could stand alone, but taken together, they make a novel. This enables Halfon to explore various themes without losing the overall theme of identity and perhaps something else that is clearly there that I'm having difficulty naming. It's more of a general overall sense of how our interconnectedness and our backgrounds help to define us despite that our inner selves sometimes with the deny that based on who we would like to be rather than who we are. Halfon's ability to communicate this through his short story/novel/autobiography? is wonderful. ( )
  fuzzy_patters | Feb 1, 2015 |
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  KStewart3446 | Dec 10, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Whether he is exploring an agricultural co-op in his Guatemalan home land, a jazz salon in Harlem, a Nazi submarine-building base in France, or going (or not) to his sister’s wedding in Tel Aviv, Eduardo Halfon is really exploring his own identity. He is Guatemalan born, with Jewish and Arab ancestry, educated (and currently living) in the United States. He is confused and amused by his dilemma and is a charming storyteller.

Unlike the Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgård’s pondering autobiographical tomes, Halfron’s autobiographical stories and observations are short, to the point, and never boring. Halfon’s earlier book The Polish Boxer and Monastery can each stand alone, but reading one enhances the reading of the other.

A delight to read. ( )
2 vote seeword | Oct 24, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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