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The Polish Boxer

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  242 ratings  ·  48 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, 192 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Bellevue Literary Press (first published January 2008)
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Finale by Becca FitzpatrickAfter Forever Ends by Melodie RamoneThe Mark of Athena by Rick RiordanThe Lost Prince by Julie KagawaIced by Karen Marie Moning
Best books of October, 2012
42nd out of 107 books — 249 voters
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezPedro Páramo by Juan RulfoKiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel PuigLabyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
Latin American Lit (In Translation)
18th out of 39 books — 24 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 594)
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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
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
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.
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....more
Read it. It's about you. Really. Best thing I've read in years and years.
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...more
Cooper Renner
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
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
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.
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
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
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...more
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
Howard Cincotta
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...more
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...more
Feb 20, 2013 Michelle rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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!
Leslie Reese
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
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 with...more
Erika Dreifus
Please see my review for The Jewish Journal, based on a complimentary review copy provided by the publisher.
Fascinating! A wonderful author, a soulful thinker! Very difficult to describe this book - you'll have to read it!
Short, poetic novel. Worth seeking out.
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...more
In his story Halfon chases a number of themes - ghosts, outsiders, orgasms, and the intersection between literature and reality - which seems to be his meta-theme. He tries to capture and define the novelist’s task but finds it elusive, always flitting about in the half light, like a prostitute in the shadowy confines of a brothel, there to mimic the act of love with a ghostlike semblance (mockery?) of the divine union.

“As we write, we know that there is something very important to be said about...more
WCN Book Club
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....more
Rating: 4 1/2 stars.

The Polish Boxer is a series of interrelated short stories. They are connected by the fact they are narrated by the same storyteller and that they appear to be experiences from the teller’s life. The narrator shares the author’s name. Whether or not they are the same person is not made clear. The stories have common themes: the dual nature of literature and art, internal revolutions of the mind and spirit, and transcending boundaries and prejudices. The stories are arranged t...more
As a fictional meditation on fiction it was a clever and fresh take. Enjoyed the connected stories and the sense of the narrator searching for his past. However, I ended up having a hard time identifying with the main character and found his world weary hyper sophisticated aesthete pose a little wearying. Not that i take this as a self portrait of the artist, but it seems to invoke the unreliable narrator technique, which is fine when it works and the narrative voice engages us, but this guy jus...more
A.J. Sidransky
I loved this book. It took me on a voyage with little respect for time or space. As a writer I would like to achieve that effect with my prose. A step up from the everyday Holocaust story. Graduate level Holocaust Studies. Read this.
Dianna Linder
I had high hopes for The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon. I have been in a PhD program for months, unable to read anything other than texts and journal articles. What a joy to finally return to reading for pleasure! Halfon's book of short autobiographical stories was unique, with his Guatemalan exotic upbringing, his desire to compare, contrast and connect cultures and generations. At the end of the day, however, the book didn't work for me. It isn't memorable in the way that, say, Nathan England...more
David Goldman
This book is ambitious and well written, but falls so short that I can't recommend. The book tries to blend the story of the author, who is haunted by a past that he's running from with the artist who's haunted by a paste he can't ever create. Told in a series of connecting vignettes, including the story of young poet who absconds, the classical musician, and yes the Polish Boxer (the man who saved his g-dad from the concentration campts even as g-dad hates poles). Sounds interesting, but it jus...more

This book was disjointed. Each chapter was related to the others but never finished the story. I admittedly don't know much about classical music so I was sort of lost during portions of the book. I'm also not sure if this book is really fiction. It seems to describe the author's life and the back cover actually mentions this. If I cared to read about the author's life, I would. In this case, he should've written a historical fiction about the actual polish boxer. It would have been much more i...more
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“A story is nothing but a lie. An illusion. And that illusion only works if we trust in it.” 7 likes
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