In my writing, as in my life, I tend to blur boundaries. Cultural boundaries, national boundaries, boundaries between genres, boundaries between languages, boundaries between myself and my narrator (he too is named Eduardo Halfon, he too has my same bio and background and salt-and-pepper beard), boundaries between what’s fiction and what’s not. My unity with readers, to follow Tolstoy, comes precisely by destroying all boundaries, by removing them, and thus letting my voice be whatever it needs to be, at anytime, to anyone.
Although I’m Jewish, I’m also Arab. Although I’m Latin American, I’m also not. Although I’m a writer who plays by ear and improvisation, I’m also a systematic and neurotic engineer. Although I only write in Spanish, as I write, the words, in my head, are always in English. Although I was born in Guatemala, grew up in Florida and North Carolina, spent time in Spain (even became a citizen), and am now living in Nebraska, I have no idea what it means to be Guatemalan or American or Spanish—but I can dress the part and modify my accent and perfectly pretend to be any of these. I’m whatever you want or need me to be. I’m the blank tile that completes the word. I’m the joker in the deck, maybe smiling, maybe not.
—Eduardo Halfon was born in Guatemala City, moved to the U.S. at the age of ten, went to school in South Florida, studied Industrial Engineering at North Carolina State University, and then returned to Guatemala to teach literature for eight years at Universidad Francisco Marroquín. Named one of best young Latin American writers by the Hay Festival of Bogotá, he is also the recipient of the prestigious José María de Pereda Prize for the Short Novel and has published ten previous books of fiction in Spanish. In 2011 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on continuing the story of The Polish Boxer, which is inspired by his own family history and is the first of his novels to be published in English (by Bellevue Literary Press). Halfon currently lives in Nebraska and travels frequently to Guatemala.
photo: Carlos Machado
2paragraphs gives special thanks to Anderson Tepper for curating our International Writers Interviews. Mr. Tepper is on the staff of Vanity Fair and is a Contributing Editor at Words Without Borders.