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 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. 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 very well-received. 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), combines the incomprehensible reality of adults with 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, immigrates 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. A selection of Hemon’s short stories appeared in 2009 under the title »Love and Obstacles«. »The Book of my Lives« (2013) is once again an autobiographical work, whereby Hemon skillfully »lets the situations speak, instead of reflecting himself in a purposeful, chronologically ordered narrative« (»NZZ«). His novel »The Making of Zombie Wars« (2015) is a satire on America’s fantasies of omnipotence on the eve of a renewed invasion of Iraq. In his most recent memoir, »My Parents / This Does Not Belong to You« (2019), he tells the story of his parents’ immigration to Canada.
Hemon’s works have won many awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in Chicago.