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The Polish Boxer

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  452 Ratings  ·  80 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 answer ...more
Paperback, 188 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Bellevue Literary Press (first published January 2008)
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(showing 1-30)
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Nancy Oakes
I loved this book. Without saying much about the full storylines here (you really have to experience this book yourself), I read this book twice -- the first time through I didn't like the disjointed feel of the book, but then when I got to the ending, something the author said made me think that perhaps I should go back and read it again. The light bulb over my head flashed on after the second read and I realized that what is important in this book is not that there are little stories wrapped u ...more
Dov Zeller
Here is another one of those novels in which the narrator is some fictionalized reflection of the novelist himself. And there are moments in which, just as in certain other similarly crafted books by other male authors, I was frustrated by the self-absorbed unreflective masculinity of the narrator and, I imagine, the novelist himself. I cannot say that I like the Halfon in this book, or that I feel too much tenderness toward the writer himself, or his attitude toward the female people in this bo ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I must have been cross-eyed when I read the title. I thought this was going to be about a guy who makes shiny coffins. The Box Polisher.
Jan 03, 2013 jeremy rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation, fiction
despite having written just shy of a dozen works of fiction, eduardo halfon has already received a number of notable accolades (including a guggenheim fellowship and being named as one of the prestigious bogotá 39). the guatemalan-born's first "novel" to be translated into english, the polish boxer (el boxeador polaco), is a contemplative and cultivated effort in autobiographical fiction. neither novel nor short story collection really, halfon's book weaves together loosely connected threads of ...more
Leslie Reese
Aug 31, 2014 Leslie Reese rated it really liked it
The size of this Bellevue Literary Press, first english edition, published in 2012, is 5 inches x 71/2 inches, and just about 1/2 inch thick. It’s so unobtrusive that it fit easily inside my purse. Translated by five collaborators [from Guatemalan Spanish?], the page length comes in under 200 pages. “Distant,” the first story, kicks off in the first person: a college literature professor (named Eduardo Halfon) opens the school year before a class of students who make him wonder “if this shit was ...more
Guillermo Jiménez
En un principio me desconcertó. No fue sino hasta el tercer cuento que logré comprender esa sutileza con la que Halfon hilvana los relatos. Ese murmullo de río subterráneo que se agolpa en cada una de sus páginas.
Demomios. ¡Qué bien puede escribir este cabrón!
Releí como desesperado nuevamente los primeros cuentos. Saboreando cada giro que se quedaba a medias, porque eso hace, ahí donde crees que viene la palabra certera, el golpe, el toque, Halfon gira el torso tres cuartos y deja pasar el toro.
Feb 20, 2013 Jenn rated it it was amazing
This was the first book in a long time to make me cry. I was reading it in public and couldn't help myself. But it is neither sentimental nor tragic without hope. It made me cry because the details are so perfect, so simple, and all too human. Once again, Bellevue Literary Press strikes gold. You can basically read anything they publish and be guaranteed a gem.
Dec 09, 2014 Holly rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014-reads
D: You're reading about a Polish boxer?
Me: Well, not really . .
D: Then what's it about?
Me: It's sort of about a Guatemalan literature professor, and Sarajevo, and Gypsies, and Auschwitz, and Mark Twain conferences, and what literature is, and a woman who draws pictures of her orgasms, and . . .
D: Do you like it?
Me: I have no idea.
Apr 24, 2013 Richard rated it it was amazing
Read it. It's about you. Really. Best thing I've read in years and years.
Thomas Hübner
Jul 27, 2015 Thomas Hübner rated it liked it

No, the tattooed six-digit number visible on the arm of the narrator's grandfather is not his phone number as he tells his grandson - it is his inmate number from Auschwitz.

Eduardo Halfon, the narrator/author of The Polish Boxer is a literature professor at a college in Guatemala that seems to be rather frustrated by his job. Year after year he is teaching students that don't take the slightest interest in literature - but the rare exceptions make up for this
Oct 11, 2012 Crystal rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the Polish Boxer for its flagrant disregard for literary expectations of any kind. Halfon plays and yet is serious. He write about very sombre and serious topics - the Holocaust, discrimination against Gypsies, the many many Serbian wars - but more generally about displacement, physical, psychological, spiritual, metaphysical. And yet he also plays with these serious things - using a character who is so baffled and confused by language barriers and cultural clashes that all of t ...more
Jan 22, 2013 Tuck rated it really liked it
literary interconnected short stories, literary in that they are written by and about a guatemalan literature prof named eduardo halfon, as he chronicles his classes, mostly dull, his girlfriend, mostly hot, his meeting a serbian pianist, mostly intriguing, and his grandpa, saved in Auschwitz by a polish boxer's good advice. lots of good details of food and drink, art, landscapes (from central america to belgrade gypsy brothels) family, religion, and memories. this is his first translated to eng ...more
I gave this book 4.85 stars at I was provided a reader copy by Bellevue Literary Press.

Review excerpt:

"Halfon’s characters (and it feels weird to call them characters because I assume they are real people) all enchant the reader–Lía, who draws her orgasms; Juan Kalel, a brilliant poet confined by life in a tiny village; his grandfather, who always told his grandchildren that the number tattooed on his arm was his phone number, so he wouldn’t forget it–but the one that st
Howard Cincotta
Jun 10, 2013 Howard Cincotta rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The Polish Boxer is either a sloppy pastiche or the future of literature. Is it fiction, memoir, fictionalized autobiography? I suspect Halfon, who is hailed on the cover copy as one of Latin America's hot young writers, doesn't really care. But he is certainly someone to watch. (This is his first book in English.)

Apparently, Polish Boxer is intended as installment in some combination of memoir and family history, with chapters on teaching literature to uninterested students in Guatemala, having
Dec 04, 2016 Erin rated it did not like it
This was recommended on a list of must read books and the review just raved about it and the synopsis sounded interesting. Truth is, I really didn't like it. Like, at all. I was so bored and it never engaged me. I was purposefully going through it as fast as I could just so I could finish it so it would end!! Guess it just wasn't for me.
Cooper Renner
Jan 21, 2013 Cooper Renner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Halfon warns readers at the outset--via a classroom discussion between his narrator and students--that this novel will be bilevel--a surface story and a hidden story. The surface seems straightforward and somewhat plotless, but is very smartly written and keeps the reader's interest. The hidden story?--well, that sort of depends on the reader, eh? I'm still thinking about it. What we have in front of us is a narrator who 'pretends' to be the author himself and his interest in a half-Gypsy pianis ...more
 Sophia B
My second book of Halfon and I am really enjoying it! This was even better than the first I read. They are connected in theme. It is partly biographical but of course it is fiction. I laughed a lot while reading - the characters he writes about - they seem so real - and they might be. I hope more people will read his works. He is american and bilingual but writes in spanish. Just great in all senses.
L.A. Starks
Jun 25, 2013 L.A. Starks rated it it was amazing
As a brief change from thrillers & mysteries I read this "narrative" of short stories. Halfon writes with a light, expert touch and his work has been superbly translated. Readers who like this book would also like Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, a collection of short stories by award-winning author Ben Fountain.
Feb 20, 2013 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michelle by: Jenn
I really loved this book more than I thought I would. Something was just so perfectly simple yet magical about it and I was sad when it was over. I can see myself rereading this book in an attempt at an escape from the mundane. I hope more of his books get translated into English!
Erika Dreifus
Please see my review for The Jewish Journal, based on a complimentary review copy provided by the publisher.
WCN Book Club
May 01, 2013 WCN Book Club rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review by Sam Ruddock - Summer Reads Producer

There is a passage in The Polish Boxer in which the narrator, a Guatemalan literature professor and writer named Eduardo Halfon, tells a musician he has just met about his take on revolutions. I am, he says, ‘fascinated by internal rather than external revolutions…how and why someone is pushed toward a revolution of the spirit, whether it be artistic or social or whatever, strikes me as a far more honest search than all of the spectacle that follows.
Fabio Bensoussan
Jan 12, 2017 Fabio Bensoussan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Este livro de cento e poucas páginas mostra um autor mais identificado com a literatura europeia. Um livro de contos que pode ser encarado, também, como uma narrativa única. No centro de tudo, o conto que dá o título do livro, a história do avô, sobrevivente de Auschwitz, com seu número tatuado. 69752. Segundo o avô, seu número de telefone, que estava escrito no braço para que dele não se esquecesse. É o melhor conto do livro.

Fumaça branca, por sua vez, deu origem a outro livro, Monasterio, que
Jan 15, 2017 Fran rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this meandering story, the quest to find a musician friend who is a classical pianist who wants to be a gypsy, the grandfather's story about the Polish boxer who instructed him what to say to and not say to the interrogators in the death camp, the displacement of characters.
Dec 29, 2015 Heather rated it liked it
Translated by Thomas Bunstead, Lisa Dillman, Daniel Hahn, Anne McLean, and Ollie Brock
"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 p
Jun 28, 2016 Phyllis rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Polish Boxer, by Eduardo Halfon, ( Translated from the Spanish by Daniel Hahn, Ollie Brock, Lisa Dillman, Thomas Bunstead and Anne McLeanuite) is the fictional compilation of stories of one man’s search for identity and substance through his encounters with other individuals. I say fictional, but after a bit of research regarding the author, the book also seems to border on a non-fiction accounting, or even a memoir.

Eduardo Halfon, the narrator of the slim volume of stories has the same name
Full Stop
Jun 11, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: fall-2012

Review by Alli Carlisle

The Guatemalan author Eduardo Halfon’s book The Polish Boxer is his first translation into English; presumably to honor this momentous occasion, Words Without Borders, which coordinated the translation, gave the book not one but five translators.

The book is hard to classify. Reviewers are calling the book a novel, pointing you toward reading with a structure in mind. But The Polish Boxer is told in discrete stories that sit elegantly
Nov 04, 2013 Alice rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, 5-star-reads
I am not really sure how I came across this book other than I must have added it to my library list before going to Guatemala for a month. I can’t decide if it would have been better before Guatemala or if it is nicer after when I perhaps understand something of the cultural melange of a country with 26 living languages.

At first this book seems like a lovely trap. At once completely self-conscious as the narrator of the novel/collection of short stories (reviewers seem conflicted on which this i
Feb 18, 2013 Linda rated it it was amazing
This intriguing short novel shares experiences of a modern Guatemalan literature teacher. The experiences are with different people and circumstances, yet connected by something that might just be beyond our grasp. What would become of Juan's talent as a student and poet, and what was written on his fortune paper picked by a canary? How did the Serbian pianist solve the pull of his Gypsy heritage when "something held him back", and what was his pirouette? And of course, the title: who was the Po ...more
Oct 16, 2012 Pat rated it it was amazing
It's difficult to describe this book without giving too much away to those who have not read it. It is probably best described as a metafiction about the necessity of fiction to describe the human existence. The back cover of the book refers to mapping one's identity, but I do not think that does the book justice. It is about more than that with major themes including the futility of searching for meaning in art and, ironically, the beauty of literature that has meaning within the subtext of the ...more
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Eduardo Halfon was born in 1971 in Guatemala City. He studied Industrial Engineering at North Carolina State University, and later was professor of Literature at Universidad Francisco Marroquín, in Guatemala.
In 2011 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on continuing the story of The Polish Boxer, which is the first of his novels to be published in English, by Bellevue Literary Press in the
More about Eduardo Halfon...

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“A story is nothing but a lie. An illusion. And that illusion only works if we trust in it.” 5 likes
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