BEST BOOKS OF 2000
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
One of Esquire's Ten Best Books of the Year
One of the Village Voice Literary Supplement's 25 Favorite Books of the Year
A Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book of 2000
A Washington Post Book World "Rave"
Chicago Tribune: "One of my favorite books of the year..."
New York Times Book Review
An Expatriate at War by Richard Eder
"So good as to make the reader feel certain of having discovered not just an extraordinary story but an extraordinary writer: one who seems not simply gifted but necessary..." Read the whole review
And English Isn't His First Language by Sven Birkerts
"The sound is ailing, so you wiggle knobs, jiggle wires, finally just smack the top of the speaker, and -- voila -- the air is suddenly full with the sound you wanted. I feel that way reading Aleksandar Hemon's new collection, The Question of Bruno. Born in Sarajevo in 1964, Hemon came to this country in his late 20s and began to write in English only five years ago... The man is a maestro, a conjurer, a channeler of universes...
The stories in The Question of Bruno are subtly braided, just enough link and suggestion between one and the next to make you feel as you do when you slip from one uncanny dream to the next in a feverish night. The span is wonderfully wide--fanciful documentary imaginings from the Old World giving way to more personal stories from the New. Throughout, the astonishing eye, the verbal torque, the vamping of a wrenched-loose perception of the world.... As vivid prose as you will find anywhere this year, and as heartbreaking."
Critical Moment by Malcolm Jones
"Entertaining stories about Sarajevo? Weirdly droll and heartbreaking, this debut volume deftly anatomizes a world gone wrong." [four stars]
The New Yorker
"The Yugoslavian-born author came to the United States on vacation, but was forced to stay when his country erupted in war. In this collection of stories, political reality is driven into everyday life like a wedge orjust as oftena knife. The most straightforward pieces benefit immensely from the fact that English is not Hemons native language. Like Conrads, his prose often makes the most of emphatically discordant notes: an initially incongruous word comes to seem a perfect choice."
"That eerie half-world in which small personal dramas play out against shattering current events is the territory of Aleksandar Hemons assured first short-story collection, The Question of Bruno -- a debut all the more impressive because the author, a native of Sarajevo, only recently learned English. Before the comparisons to Nabokov and Conrad start coming, however (and odds are theyll come fast and furious), know this: Hemon is an original voice, and he has imagination and talent all his own
Espionage and exile: Bosnian immigrant Aleksandar Hemon brilliantly mingles grand history and personal story in his debut collection by George Packer
"In the spring of 1992, the Bosnian-born Aleksandar Hemon was a young tourist traveling on a shoestring through the United States when Bosnian-Serbian forces began attacking Sarajevo. Unable to go back, he stayed in Chicago, supported himself in menial jobs and acquired a mastery of the vivid, playful English that shows on every page of his first book, the short-story collection The Question of Bruno..." Read the whole story
San Francisco Chronicle
Funny, Startling Stories of War and Loneliness by Daniel Orozco
"By turns terrifying, gently comic and brutally satiric, these are stunning stories that compel the reader to view a world rendered -- by repression and war and displacement -- abruptly alien and unfamiliar
Again and again in these astute and keenly imagined stories, Hemon brings us up short and startles us into sharing his characters' vision, seeing what we haven't seen before. The effect is unsettling and illuminating." Read the whole story
Los Angeles Times
First Fiction by Mark Rozzo
"Aleksandar Hemon left Sarajevo in 1992 and immigrated to Chicago; by 1995, he had already acquired enough English to begin writing like a modern-day Conrad in his adopted language. The result is The Question of Bruno, an inventive and thorny collection of interlocking narratives that has the jarring immediacy of autobiography, as if Hemon were brandishing a handheld video camera at the inchoate episodes of his life. But his artful anarchic jump-cutting is firmly grounded by the undeniable heft of history... Whether pondering the coldblooded craft of Sarajevo's snipers or offering a Proustian joke, Hemon has an impeccable ear for the mundane ironies and bleak compromises elicited by extraordinary events."
A Question of Power: Like Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov before him, Bosnian-born Aleksandar Hemon is a gifted stylist in his adopted second language by William Georgiades
"Imagine another country invites you to visit them as part of a cultural-exchange program. After a month you see that the tensions at home have come to a head -- that an army has surround your hometown -- and so you apply for political asylum and stay in this new country and start to build a new life, first by learning the language and working in a series of menial jobs. And then by writing a collection of short stories in your adopted second language
That's what happened to Aleksandar Hemon
Hemon is a wonderful writer because through every page of Bruno he gives voice to the experience of being an immigrant, of being in wartime, of seeing a culture and a way of life decimated. He makes history -- even recent history -- human; the personal, political."
'Bruno' Is Among the Fortunes of War by Dan Cryer
"It is surely no coincidence that the name of Joseph Conrad, another European exile whose native language is not English, is alluded to several times in Hemons often thrilling debut collection, The Question of Bruno. There could hardly be a better ancestor-mentor invoked. Hemons memoir-like stories and one novella here tell us much about the horrors of war, the confusions of identity, and the no-less-perplexing business of creating a new life in a country not your own."
"Much like his protagonist in the novella 'Blind Jozef Pronek & Dead Souls,' the cornerstone of this collection of eight stories, Hemon came to the U.S. as a tourist but had to stay as a refugee when his native Yugoslavia splintered apart. The expertly wrought stories he has written since movingly set his characters' personal memories side by side with historys accidents, the guilt of exile sharing space with the horrors of war, in both straightforward narratives and border-erasing experiments
Starred and boxed review by Donna Seaman
"Unable to return home to Sarajevo after war broke out, Hemon stayed in Chicago, and the exiles wrenching experiences of learning a new language and culture infuse his edgy stories with a hallucinatory intensity. Hemon handles English as though each sentence were an incendiary device, beautifully made but volatile; and each tale, loaded with painful memories and scouring observations, is an ambush on an elusive enemy
Hemon is a stoic tragedian and a brilliant satirist."
The Observer (London)
Is this the new Kundera? by Tim Adams
"Like Nabokov, Hemon writes with the startling peeled vision of the outsider, weighing words as if for the first time; he shares with Kundera an ability to find grace and humour in the bleakest of circumstances. In part his book is a history lesson, but it is history felt on a human pulse. He imagines his way back into the troubled soul of his home city, and tells its tales from within." Read the whole story
The Express (London)
Fragments of a Former Life by Tim Docx
"There is no single word in 200-odd pages that is not there for a reason. If you want to get hold of something worthwhile, you will go a long way to find anything better than this. There is something about the way that he uses (or, perhaps, discovers) the English language that will alter the way you read." Read the whole story
The Observer (London)
Tomorrow's worldbeaters: Last week, the New Yorker named its top 20 writers for the next century. Now The Observer goes one better by Robert McCrum
"In The Observer's list of 21 writers for the twenty-first century, we have attempted to range across continents and cultures... the writers we have picked are those we shall be looking out for in the coming century..." Read the whole story
Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine (Cover Story)
Marking His Place: Rising Literary Star Aleksandar Hemon Learned English by Writing it--and Learned to Love the Chicago Immigrant Experience by Living It by Stephen Franklin
"Aleksandar Hemon's success at age 35 is astounding, considering he arrived in Chicago seven years ago with two suitcases, about $300 and a less than working knowledge of English. Some say he has the potential to become the next Vladimir Nabokov, the next foreign-born author who adopts English as his new voice and sings it in a rich, sonorous tone matched by few natives..." Read the whole story
More spilled spaghetti: Aleksandar Hemon, author of "The Question of Bruno," talks about his favorite spies and the need for messiness in American fiction by Laura Miller
"Hemon has been good to English, as the recent publication of his short-story collection, The Question of Bruno, conclusively proves. It's a book full of peculiar and yet startlingly apt phrases. It's also a book of shifting, elusive moods, whether Hemon is writing about a childhood enthusiasm for the Russian master spy Richard Sorge; the sentimental, boozy expansiveness of a Bosnian family reunion; the absurd, horror of life in Sarajevo during the war; or the almost psychedelically vivid perceptions of a recent immigrant who sees American objects in starker relief partly because he doesn't know the names of any of them..." Read the whole story
RE: Aleksandar Hemon: Though his first book is yet to hit most stores, Bosnian author Aleksandar Hemon is already being compared to Nabokov, Conrad, and Skvorecky. FEED talks to him about learning to write in English, and his life in exile by Jenny Offill
"For all its wit and charm, Hemon's debut is haunted by the Sarajevo he left behind. Some stories evoke the lost world of a peaceful childhood, others the daily absurdities of life under Communist rule. In many, Hemon reimagines historical events, pulling back from the big picture to show the people who stood just outside the frame. The results are both funny, and, at times, impossibly sad. In The Question of Bruno, Hemon has invented his own lexicon of loss and displacement, one that makes the much-told "immigrant story" seem new again. FEED talked to Aleksandar Hemon at the Los Angeles Book Fair about learning English, the limits of minimalism, and the life he left behind..." Read the whole story
Aleksandar Hemon by Jenifer Berman
"Caught between the hard facts and soft focus of the past, his debut collection, The Question of Bruno, exists in a disarming demilitarized zone, a place where history cant decide what to make of itself. Set in and around his native Sarajevo, his stories struggle with a world abruptly changing, and his charactersa boy who suspects his father is a Soviet spy, a young woman caught in the siege, a down-on-his-luck émigré writer watching the conflict on TVquickly come to understand how mutable the truth can be...
What is true is that Hemon is a world class talent. Oft compared to Nabokov, and not solely because he writes in an adopted language, Hemons pitch-perfect diction and virtuosic command of the English language are shocking only in that you wish others wrote so well, and with such zeal for formal challenge... It would be easy to categorize The Question of Bruno as "war literature"doesnt Bosnia need a Catch 22 or a Meditations in Green or even a Going After Cacciato?but that would be a considerable disservice. These stories are much more than shocking reports or tragic testimonials. And although they may at times bear witness to a murderous conflict, they also speak much more broadly to the perseverance, and perplexity, of the human spirit." Read the whole story
Time Out New York
Coming to America: One good thing to emerge from war-torn Bosnia: Aleksandar Hemon's The Question of Bruno by Janet Steen
"The books language is rich, complex, sharply intelligent, and frequently funny -- a pleasant surprise for readers of new fiction, and all the more astonishing considering Hemon wrote it in English, his second language, which the 35-year-old began seriously studying only eight years ago. Hemon talks as energetically as he writes
The Guardian (London)
Brave new words: Aleksandar Hemon arrived in Chicago, a refugee from Sarajevo, speaking only tourist English. Now, a master of the language, he's being hailed as the 'new Nabokov'. How did he do it? by Julian Borger
"The big, burly 35-year-old with close-cropped brown hair waiting for my plane to arrive is tipped to be the 'new Nabokov' -- an outsider who has come to English as a second language and shown us how it should be written. Awards are beginning to fall on him like the first snow in a long winter. [His first book,] The Question Of Bruno, is generating near-messianic excitement in the publishing world..." Read the whole story
Bosnian writer prefers Chicago, thanks by Craig Offman
"The New Yorker missed a good opportunity in its contributors notes page this week. The fiction writer's bio is intriguing, if a bit flat: "Aleksandar Hemon was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and currently lives in Chicago. He is working on a collection of short stories." On further investigation, Salon Books learned that the life of the author is as engaging as his short story, "Blind Josef Pronek." Even though he arrived in the United States seven years ago with only a few English classes under his belt, Hemon already writes in English with great success..." Read the whole story
Hot Deals: Out of Sarajevo by John F. Baker
"A remarkable writer who was exiled from his native Sarajevo seven years ago speaking only basic English has just won a six-figure publishing contract for two literary books in that language -- or translated by himself from Serbo-Croatian. His name is Aleksander Hemon, and his The Question of Bruno, a novella and stories, plus another unwritten book whose form and subject are unknown, were bought at auction by Sean McDonald, a new editor at Nan Talese's Doubleday imprint, from agent Nicole Aragi at the Watkins Loomis agency..."Read the whole story
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