Eduardo Halfon is the author of fourteen books of fiction published in Spanish. His latest, Mourning, published in English by Bellevue Literary Press in 2018, received the Edward Lewis Wallant Award (US), the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (France), and the Premio de las Librerías de Navarra (Spain). In 2018, he was awarded the Guatemalan National Prize in Literature, his country’s highest literary honor. He currently lives in Paris and holds a fellowship from Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination. (November 2019)
I was twenty-eight years old and working as an engineer in Guatemala and I knew that if I wanted to be a writer I needed to go to Paris. And so I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket, and flew to Paris in the early winter of 1999, with no other plan than to become a writer. I knew that my entire life up to that point had been lived by someone who no longer existed, or who no longer wanted to exist. I was all alone. I was miserable, and helpless, and completely lost.
Dispatches on the coronavirus outbreak from Madeleine Schwartz in Brooklyn, Anne Enright in Dublin, Joshua Hunt in Busan, Anna Badkhen in Lalibela, Lauren Groff in Gainesville, Christopher Robbins in New York, Elisa Gabbert in Denver, Ian Jack in London, Vanessa Barbara in São Paolo, Rachel Pearson in San Antonio, A.E. Stallings in Athens, Simon Callow in London, Mark Gevisser in Cape Town, Sarah Manguso in Los Angeles, Ruth Margalit in Tel Aviv, Miguel-Anxo Murado in Madrid, Tim Parks in Milan, Eduardo Halfon in Paris, Anastasia Edel in Oakland, and more.
We called it El Lago. The Lake. As kids, growing up in the Guatemala of the 1970s, we spent most weekends and holidays of my childhood there, jumping off the wooden dock, learning to swim in the icy blue water. One early morning, we all woke up to find two indigenous men floating face down by the wooden dock. They were naked and bloated. Guerrilleros, my father said, his tone far from compassionate or even sympathetic. Guerrilla fighters, probably from one of the surrounding villages. I was still too young to understand that the military used to dispose of some of their enemies there, dumping the dead and tortured bodies into the water. A few weeks later, my grandparents sold the chalet.