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The Book of My Lives Hardcover – March 19, 2013
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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MacArthur fellow Hemon’s potent fiction (Love and Obstacles, 2009) is seeded with autobiographical elements now brought forward in his first book of nonfiction. In revised versions of essays first published in Granta and the New Yorker, Hemon chronicles with defining intensity, rueful self-critique, and piquant humor indelible revelations personal, cultural, and political. He is passionate about his hometown, Sarajevo, which he ardently explored and wrote about as a young militant journalist, to the point of realizing “that my interiority was inseparable from my exteriority.” This made his exile in the U.S. after war broke out in his homeland while he was away all the more excruciating. In his incisive, masterfully crafted, and complexly affecting family stories; Sarajevo exploits, including the party-performance piece that led to a 13-hour interrogation at State Security; tales of remapping the “geography of the soul” in Chicago, his adopted home; and his staggering chronicle of his daughter’s tragic death, Hemon writes with deft force, piercing observation, and commanding candor about the individual’s place within life’s web and the horrors and beauty of the human condition. --Donna Seaman
“Aleksandar Hemon is, quite frankly, the greatest writer of our generation. His literature is deep, agile, funny, graceful, searing, angry, raw, questioning. The Book of My Lives is worth it simply for the dedication: ‘For Isabel, forever breathing on my chest.' He writes it, and so she breathes on ours too. Such is the function of storytelling: to get to the essence of that which might eventually break our hearts. This is a book--like all of Aleksandar Hemon's books--that is an aria for our times. I will cherish it.” ―Colum McCann
“Incandescent. When your eyes close, the power of Aleksandar Hemon's colossal talent remains.” ―Junot Díaz
“Aleksandar Hemon's work crackles with so much humor and irony, so much compassion and humanity, that The Book of My Lives's true calling almost goes by unnoticed: it is, without doubt, the most necessary, intimate, and heartbreaking portrait of a world lost to one of history's darkest conflicts.” ―Téa Obreht
“I'm not quite sure Aleksandar Hemon counts as an American writer, but he is one of my favorite American writers. Before The Book of My Lives, I never really thought of him as a nonfiction person, but this new book--a memoir in essays--has some of his best writing. When Hemon's work is funny, it can make you laugh in spite of everything, and when it is sad, it's hard to stand up afterward.” ―John Jeremiah Sullivan
“The Book of My Lives is written with the full force of humanity. It will make you think, laugh, cry, and remember yourself. If you've never read Aleksandar Hemon, prepare to have your worldview deepened.” ―Jonathan Safran Foer
“You should read Aleksandar Hemon's memoir for the same reason you should read his fiction: He is not only a remarkably talented writer but also one of the great social observers, a cultural anthropologist who seems at home everywhere and nowhere and who balances despair with hope, anger with humor.” ―Benjamin Percy, National Public Radio
“One of the best prose stylists--in any language--at work today . . . and this collection is a compelling argument for his emergence as a vitally important writer.” ―Edward Hart, Kansas City Star
“A tour de force.” ―Megan O'Grady, Vogue
“The writing is gorgeous, the ending unexpected . . . I was left wanting more.” ―Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times
“Elegant and funny . . . Acutely observed, deeply felt.” ―Ann Levin, Newsday
“Hemon has a dazzling gift for observation.” ―Chris Wallace, The Daily Beast
“Unforgettable.” ―Jesse Dorris, Time
“Powerful . . . Engaging . . . Hemon invites readers to savor both his émigré triumphs and his émigré pain--an invitation worth seizing.” ―Julia M. Klein, Chicago Tribune
“Acute meditations on exile and otherness, and the redeeming power of language.” ―The Economist
“Wise and entrancing.” ―Lucas Wittmann, Newsweek
“Hemon is engaging and interesting company, and the story of his life--or lives--is one worth telling.” ―Lisa Weidenfeld, The Christian Science Monitor
Top customer reviews
What strikes me most is how normal Hemon's life seems through all the changes going on around him in Sarajevo. As Sarajevo was crumbling in war, Hemon was rising. We hear about chess matches, playing in the park, teenage " bad boy" delinquencies that are universal. We hear about his father, his dog. But, mostly, what comes through is Hemon's love for Sarajevo! His continuing love for the city rings clear and doesn't lessen---even though he considers himself, and is, part of America, part of Chicago after he reaches age 27.
He excels at portraits of people whether it's his father or acquaintances in a pick up soccer game in Chicago. In the course of this, Hemon doesn't spare himself. A slightly humorous,but obviously true, part of himself comes to light as he describes what an utter mess his life has become living alone with detritus of all kinds after the break up of his first marriage. He reforms mainly because he wants to catch the woman who then becomes his second wife.
The last essay in this collection is filled with so much emotion that it's hard to read--but it's utterly necessary to an understanding of who Hemon is.
Through it all, Hemon's prose is luminescent and concise.