The Polish Boxer

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“Elegant” —Marie Claire

“Funny and revelatory.” —New York Times Book Review

“Deeply accessible, deeply moving.” —Los Angeles Times

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...

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The Polish Boxer

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“Elegant” —Marie Claire

“Funny and revelatory.” —New York Times Book Review

“Deeply accessible, deeply moving.” —Los Angeles Times

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.

Eduardo Halfon has been cited as among the best young Latin American writers by the Hay Festival of Bogotá and is the recipient of Spain’s prestigious José María de Pereda Prize for the Short Novel. In 2011 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to continue the story of The Polish Boxer, which is his first novel to be published in English. He travels frequently to his native Guatemala and lives in Nebraska.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

International Latino Book Award Finalist
New York Times “Editors’ Choice”
Los Angeles Times “Holiday Gift Recommendation”
Two-time San Francisco Chronicle “Top Shelf” selection
Shelf Unbound Top 10 Book of the Year
Jewish Week “Fall Arts Preview” selection
Publishers Weekly “First Fiction” selection
Jewish Book Council “Weekly Book Recommendation”
Book Expo America “Big Book”

“Funny and revelatory.” —New York Times Book Review

“Elegant” —Marie Claire

“Deeply accessible, deeply moving.” —Los Angeles Times

“Fantastic . . . Intense pain and beauty are offset by an unabashedly boyish sense of humor; in the same page, Halfon can skillfully switch from a discussion about intense immigrant alienation to a hilarious observation on the short male attention span for pornography.” —NPR Alt.Latino

“Engrossing . . . The Polish Boxer by Guatemalan novelist Eduardo Halfon, is a semi-autobiographical tale about roots and origins, identity and cultural loss, and the complex relation between the individual, his or her family story, and the heavy burden of History . . . Short but intense.” —NBC Latino

“Stimulating and inspiring.” —Independent (UK)

“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-man’s-land between fiction and memoir. In the end, we decide, this is fable: only the stories are important.” —Guardian (UK)

“A mix of finely nuanced prose and humor.” —World Literature Today

“Beautiful and provocative . . . a wonderful read which begs to be re-read.” —Jewish Book World

“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)

“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.” —Publishers Weekly (boxed 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—with a young poet, university professors at a Mark Twain conference, his grandfather, his charming girlfriend, who draws her orgasms, and Milan Rackic, a Serbian-Gypsy pianist. In the more complex explanation, it is a journey of self-discovery.” —ForeWord Reviews

“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 & Confused (UK)

“Halfon’s curiosity about his grandfather’s 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

The Polish Boxer immediately seduced me; on the first page, I felt the spark of recognition that comes from reading something with actual depth and import.” —Full Stop

“The tales are spellbinding, the prose is magnificent, and several parts will make you laugh out loud.” —Gozamos

“A revelation . . . The Polish Boxer is a book of small miracles. . . . For sheer narrative momentum and fascination with the mix of life and books, sex and art, there are echoes of the Chilean master Roberto Bolaño.” —Words Without Borders

“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 Polish Boxer is an enchanting, unclassifiable book of encounters, impressions, and improvisations: a book for the ages, which can be read in one sitting, and then again, and again, and again.” —CHRISTOPHER MERRILL, director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and author of The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War

“It is not often that one encounters such a mix of personal engagement and literary passion, or pain and tenderness.” —ANDRÉS NEUMAN, author of Traveler of the Century

“Eduardo Halfon belongs to a new generation of Latin American writers who, from the beginning, demonstrate an impeccable mastery of their craft, without any hesitation in the use of language.” —SERGIO RAMÍREZ, former Vice President of Nicaragua and author of Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea

Library Journal
This ten-chapter work by a Guatemalan author now living in Nebraska defies classification. At first glance, it is an episodic, loosely arranged novel whose chapters are often autonomous, conveying the feel of several short stories tied together. But it also smacks of autobiography, as the protagonist shares the author's name. The plot concerns a Jewish Guatemalan literature professor who, after hearing a performance by a gifted Serbian pianist, feels compelled to travel to Serbia to visit him. Tacked on almost as an appendix is an account of the death of the author's grandfather, who was saved in Auschwitz by a Polish boxer, and this adds a provocative twist to the ending. The descriptions of the academic environment and the Serbian gypsy camp are vivid, based as they seem to be on real experiences. VERDICT This first English translation of Halfon's work is highly readable and engaging, partly owing to the careful work by a team of five translators; on an aesthetic note, its disruption of genre categories provides readers food for thought about the nature of literary creations.—Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781470845476
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/2012
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet 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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Customer Reviews

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