An Interview with Aleksandar Hemon

Added on by Emily Carey Gogolak.

In 1992, literary badass Aleksandar Hemon left his native Sarajevo for a cultural exchange program in Chicago. He expected to stay abroad for only a few months. And, well, plans changed. The siege on Sarajevo, which lasted 43 months and produced the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II, began. Unable to return to Bosnia, he made Chicago home and got serious--really serious--about mastering English. Just 10 years after writing his first story in his new language, he had already won a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur "genius grant." Hemon is known for biting irony, humor, and humanity in his novels and stories (The Lazarus ProjectThe Question of Bruno,Love and ObstaclesNowhere Man). The rawness of those elements also rings through his first book of nonfiction, The Book of My Lives, which was released last week. We caught up with Hemon over the phone about mining real life for fiction, writing in foreign tongues, being a flaneur in Chicago, and the beauty of playing defensive midfield.

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