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 volume of stories has the same name as the author. He is a Literature Professor, who opens the book in a classroom setting, searching for answers from his students to his presented questions. He doesn’t quite understand their lack of comprehension, boredom or feigned interest.
One student stands out from all of the rest, a brilliant young man who seems to have insight into the answers Halfon is seeking. Through no fault of his own, he must drop out of class. His priorities are with a family situation, and he doesn’t hesitate to do what is expected of him, and doesn’t take the steps out of guilt, but out of survival.
The narrator’s grandfather has a story that resonates on the Holocaust, although he hides it from his grandson until the grandson finds out otherwise. That is a secret within the pages, a secret held until his grandfather reveals the truth. The truth being he was saved and taught survival skills through a Polish Boxer. Once the narrator is explained the truth of decades past, his outlook changes. What he once thought was reality is shattered by the revelations. The illusions presented to him throughout his life take on new meaning in his journey of discovery..
And, so go the other stories, each one significant to the whole, each one a portion of the entirety, each one filled with mystery, revelation, while Halfon, the author, brilliantly plays life against itself, almost in oxymoron fashion. What we see depicted is not necessarily the reality of the situation. Secrets inhabit the stories, reality can be distorted, and one’s sense of self is not necessarily the actuality of their thinking.
I found Eduardo Halfon to be masterful and quite remarkable in his word visuals. He left this reader with a lot to ponder within the slim volume. Although slim, it is compelling reading, infused with sensitivity, humor, touching moments, magical prose, and illuminating stories.
I highly recommend The Polish Boxer to everyone. There is a story within the pages for everyone.