Eduardo Halfon’s English-language debut, The Polish Boxer (Bellevue Literary Press), about a grandson investigating his grandfather’s past, was translated from the Spanish by a team of five literary translators who split the book’s 10 chapters among themselves. Halfon also had input—although he was born in Guatemala, he left the country when he was 10 years old and now, at 40, divides his time between Nebraska and Guatemala. “English is my second and perhaps stronger language,” he says, “but I write only in Spanish.”
Halfon is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and previously taught literature at a university in Guatemala. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an engineer.
“I started The Polish Boxer without really knowing what I was writing,” Halfon recounts. “I only knew that as I wrote, I was carrying with me my grandfather’s story of survival, almost tucked under my arm, but for some reason I refused to tell it. Perhaps out of respect, perhaps out of fear. I timidly approached and avoided and skirted around my grandfather’s story of survival, in Auschwitz, with a Polish boxer. Until the weight of that story became too much, and it took over the manuscript entirely.”
Erika Goldman, publisher and editorial director of Bellevue, acquired the title from Halfon’s agent, Andrea Montejo at Indent Literary Agency. Goldman says, “There’s a marvelous density to his work, despite its stylistic clarity. Here was a young, deeply Latin American writer bound by his forebears—both literary and actual—to the great upheavals of 20th-century Europe and the Americas, whose contagious pleasure in storytelling led me down unsuspected pathways.”