NOVEL | 108 pages | 2017
Eduardo Halfon’s Duelo returns to the universe he has been building for years around the character named Eduardo Halfon—who might or might not be the author—and his family story. This time he centers on his father’s side of the family: Jewish Lebanese migrants who traveled to the US and Guatemala.
“His name was Solomon. He died when he was five, drowned in Lake Amatitlán. That’s what I was told as a child, in Guatemala: that my father’s eldest brother, my grandparents’ first-born son, he who would have been my uncle Solomon, had drowned in Lake Amatitlán, in an accident, when he was my same age, and that his body was never found (…) I didn’t know any details of the accident, and didn’t dare to ask. No one in the family spoke about Solomon. No one even uttered his name.”
Thus begins the protagonist's search for the truth behind Solomon's death, as well as his family’s decision to bury the incident in silence. A reflection on the quest for identity, misbeliefs that stand for years and silence as a way of mourning but also as a result of guilt, Duelo is an elegant and delicately written novel, lyrical in its simplicity.
Halfon travels to his grandparents’ old house on the shores of Lake Amatitlán, where as a child he used to spend weekends before the family moved to Florida, due to the violent political situation in Guatemala in the early 1980s. From the moment he sets foot in Amatitlán, everything around him triggers a flurry of childhood memories—some tied to his childhood in Guatemala, some from the first years spent in the U.S. In subtle yet masterful brushstrokes, Halfon’s memories slowly come together to uncover deep family secrets: Solomon’s backstory or, perhaps more accurately, the lack thereof, for no one in the family spoke openly of him. And we slowly begin to see the scattered information that Halfon was able to piece together as a child.
Critics hailed Halfon’s previous volumes—The Polish Boxer and Monastery— as “stimulating and inspiring” (The Independent) and “deeply accessible, deeply moving” (Los Angeles Times), and Duelo continues that tradition. Every book by Halfon is an invitation to delve into his other books, and this Russian doll effect makes the experience of reading him all the more enjoyable, while all the while creating an expectation for what is to come. The way he strings the fragmentary scenes together only to reveal the full picture as it progresses, and even how his different works assemble with each other, make up for a very elegant universe by an author—and an oeuvre—that readers will want to return to again and again.
RIGHTS: spanish LIBROS DEL ASTEROIDE | french LA TABLE RONDE | dutch WERELDBIBLIOTHEEK | english (usa) BELLEVUE LITERARY PRESS | portuguese (Brazil) MUNDAREU | german HANSER
BY EDUARDO HALFON: Duelo NOVEL, 2017 Signor Hoffman STORIES, 2015 Monasterio NOVEL, 2014 Los tragadores de cosas bonitas PICTURE BOOK, 2013 Mañana nunca lo hablamos STORIES, 2011 La pirueta NOVEL, 2010 El boxeador polaco SHORT STORIES, 2008 Siete minutos de desasosiego STORIES, 2007 El angel literario NOVEL, 2005 Esto no es una pipa, Saturno NOVEL, 2004 De cabo roto STORIES, 2004