Aleksandar Hemon  [ Bosnia, USA ]


Portrait Aleksandar Hemon
© Hartwig Klappert

Guest 2009, 2013.


Die Sache mit Bruno
München, 2000
[Ü: Rudolf Hermstein]

Nowhere Man
München, 2006
[Ü: Bernhard Robben]

München, 2009
[Ü: Rudolf Hermstein]

Love and Obstacles
New York, 2009


Rudolf Hermstein, Bernhard Robben

Aleksandar Hemon was born in Sarajevo in 1964. After studying literature at the university there, he worked as a journalist and published his first short stories in Serbo-Croatian magazines. A planned book publication was – luckily as he later said – prevented by the Bosnian War. In 1992, the author experienced the outbreak of the war from Chicago, where he was participating in a cultural exchange programme. He dealt with his forced exile through rigorous study of the English language. During this time, he eked out a living working in odd jobs – as a bike messenger, Greenpeace canvasser, bookstore salesman and sandwich-maker. He eventually acquired his Master’s degree in Literature from Chicago’s Northwestern University. Just three years later, his first short stories written in English were published in magazines such as »The New Yorker« and »Esquire«.

From the outset of his career, Hemon’s texts have been well-received and praised for their masterly command and powerful use of linguistic devices. Through exuberant fantasy, laconic unaffectedness and black humour, the author interweaves fiction and fact, layers of time, the perspectives of different narrators and fragments – lists, citations and photographs. Hemon often draws on material from his immigrant experience: his hybrid identity, his past – suddenly distant and elusive because of his emigration – and the strangeness of his new home. The short story »The Sorge Spy Ring«, from the collection »The Question of Bruno« (2000), intermingles with the incomprehensible reality of adults and a childish fantasy and contrasts the family’s life under real Socialism with elaborate footnotes concerning the history of the spy Richard Sorge. The protagonist of the novel »Nowhere Man« (2002), who also appears in one of Hemon’s earlier short stories, imigrates to the USA only to end up stranded in an absurd no-man’s-land of identity crisis.

»The Lazarus Project« (2008) is considered Hemon’s masterwork. It blends the story of an immigrant writer with the object of his research: a Jewish refugee who survives a pogrom, comes to America and then – mistaken for an anarchist – is shot at a police station. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Hemon has also received the John S. Zacharis First Book Award, a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, and a »Genius Grant« from the MacArthur Foundation. He writes a bi-weekly column for the Bosnian newspaper »Dani« (Days) and regularly publishes stories and essays in American magazines. A collection of his new and previously published short stories has recently been published under the title »Love and Obstacles« (2009). Hemon lives in Chicago.

© international literature festival berlin

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