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We Still Have Books – Christopher Chambers Reads Eduardo Halfon

Monastery by Eduardo HalfonGuest Post by Christopher Chambers

I discovered Eduardo Halfon in a used bookstore, not so long ago but long enough ago that used bookstores were open and one was able yet to indulge in the decadent past-time of browsing. Halfon’s novel The Polish Boxer caught my eye. I bought it and read it, and then purchased the other two books of his that have been translated into English (all handsomely published by Bellevue Literary Press).

I began Monastery in solitude amid the pandemic. Upon completing it, I experienced the uncanny feeling of when the lights come up after the end of good film and you walk out of the theater into the world, now dark, perhaps raining, and it seems like a strange and different world as you emerge from the world of the film (another of those experiences no longer available to us). We still have books though, and reading as a strategy for survival. I’m slowly emerging from the world of Monastery and I’m in no particular hurry to leave it behind. I’m resisting for the moment reaching for Mourning, the next of his books which awaits on the shelf alongside a selection from the lovely NYRB reprint series, some of which also await reading, some re-reading.

Halfon has said that he’s only writing one book, and everything he publishes is just part of it, as if each book he writes is another chapter. Mourning awaits me, the next chapter of this ongoing book. And I await Mourning, which I suspect will become necessary in the coming weeks and months as we proceed further into this century and all it has in store. Robert Bolaño once said: “The literature of the twenty-first century will belong to (Andrés) Neuman and to a handful of his blood brothers.” Eduardo Halfon is among that number.

Monastery by Eduardo Halfon. Bellevue Literary Press, February 2014.

Reviewer bio: Christopher Chambers is editor of Midwest Review, and author of Delta 88, a small book of very short fiction. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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