Canción by Eduardo Halfon Translated by Lisa Dillman and Daniel Hahn


By g emil reutter

Canción is the title of Eduardo Halfon’s latest release. Canción is also the kidnapper of his grandfather during the 1960’s and is the centerpiece of the narrator’s quest to find out why. Yet the story opens in Tokyo at a Lebanese Writers Conference. The narrator tells the story of his Lebanese grandfather, who is not Lebanese but Syrian, for Lebanon did not exist yet. Halfon establishes a bond with his Japanese host, whose grandfather survived Hiroshima. Canción weaves a tale of family, of violence, of fear, of travels, of liberation.

The character development is excellent, such as grandfather; Uncle Salomón; and the sleeping and sick, NoNo snoring. Salomón is reading Turkish coffee grounds when the soldiers arrive at their Guatemalan City Mansion to inform the grandfather that they located one of the men who had kidnapped him in 1967. It is here the narrator begins to piece together the long search to his grandfather’s history, coupled with the violent and fearful past of Guatemala, its civil war, and uncertainty. The violence of the Kaibiles is graphically detailed in the slaughter of an entire village, as well as the role of “Beni,” who is an enforcer for his grandfather. Beni, a Kaibile, was at the village slaughter.

The Halfon families shifting geographical locations from Syria to Europe to New York to Guatemala to Israel and to Japan contribute to the shifting of this story in a positive manner. A family with boundaries, yet without boundaries who maintain their faith and wealth.

Along the way we meet a beauty queen, model-handsome ambassador, bartenders, and characters of the night. Then there is Canción, the butcher, who we hear tales about and yet never meet nor does the narrator in his search. In the end he does find out his destiny.

Canción brings us into the violence of 1960’s Guatemala, not only through the violence of rebels and the government, but through the eyes of a family entwined in the midst of it all. It is a story of violence yet in the end it is a story of redemption.

You can find the book here:

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories and on occasion literary criticism. He can be found at: 




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