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Aleksandar Hemon

  • Bosniak writer
  • Born September 9, 1964

Aleksandar Hemon (born September 9, 1964) is a Bosnian-American fiction writer, essayist, and critic. His best known novels are Nowhere Man (2002) and The Lazarus Project (2008). He frequently publishes in The New Yorker, and has also written for Esquire, The Paris Review, the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, and the Sarajevo magazine BH Dani.


I have two homes, like someone who leaves their hometown and/or parents and then establishes a life elsewhere. They might say that they're going home when they return to see old friends or parents, but then they go home as well when they go to where they live now. Sarajevo is home, Chicago is home.




I cannot stand that whole game of confession, that is: Here I have sinned, now I'm confessing my sins, and describing my path of sin and then in the act of confession I beg for your forgiveness and redemption.




Our daughter was born in Chicago, and she's already showing it. The temperature has to be approaching zero for her to wear a hat.




When I found myself in the U.S., and the war was at full swing in Bosnia, I read for survival - it was a means of thought resuscitation.




You are always working on your worst book and your best book at the same time. The praise does not make you write better, and it shouldn't make you write worse, either.




The privilege of a middle-class, stable, bourgeois life is that you can pretend that you are not complicated and project yourself as a solid, uncomplicated person, with refined life goals and achievements.




A particular piece of music attaches itself to the piece I'm writing, and there is nothing else I can listen to. Every day I return to the same space to write, the music providing both the walls and the pictures on the walls.




I like to blur the line between fact and fiction, but not to condescend to the reader by enmeshing her/him into some sort of a postmodern coop.




I suppose I'm interested in sorrow, which is very different from depression or despair. Sorrow is continuous with the world; it allows for creativity.




I read everything I could find in English - Twain, Henry James, Hemingway, really everything. And then after a while I started writing shorter pieces in English, and one of them got published in a literary magazine and that's how it got started. After that, graduate school didn't seem very important.




I wish I could avoid the people who have threatened me. My favorite threat is that I will be thrown in the River Miljacka, which is at most knee-deep, with my feet bound in cement.




I cannot live or write without music. It stimulates the normally dormant parts of my brain that come in handy when constructing fiction.




To me there's no difference between a book of stories and a novel - they're just slightly different shapes.




New York is the Hollywood of the publishing industry, complete with stars, starlets, suicidal publishers/producers, intrigues, and a lot of money.




I am a writer, which means I write stories, I write novels, and I would write poetry if I knew how to. I don't want to limit myself.




In Bosnian, there's no distinction in literature between fiction and nonfiction; there's no word describing that.




I'll take any life in which I can make choices and have agency, and America is not a bad place for all that.




When I came to America, I was already a writer, already published in Bosnia. I was planning to go back, but I had no choice but to stay here after the civil war, so I enrolled at Northwestern in a master's program and studied American literature.




I tend to wait for true stories to mature into fiction. Most of my fiction grew out of a long-germinating real-life situation.




For people who are displaced, you can reconstruct the story of your life from the objects you have access to, but if you don't have the objects then there are holes in your life. This is why people in Bosnia - if anyone was running back into a burning house, it was to salvage photos.




I don't make notes for myself because I either lose them or they make no sense to me at all. I once found a piece of paper with the note: 'everything.' Apparently I made a note to myself not to forget everything!




I long for, not a writer's retreat - I can write in any situation - but a reader's retreat.




When we're upset, our vocal cords tighten and we can't speak. And when I lie - well, I can't lie, because the same thing happens - everyone who knows me knows that when I start squeaking, I've started lying.




The trouble with calling a book a novel, well, it's not like I'm writing the same book all the time, but there is a continuity of my interests, so when I start writing a book, if I call it 'a novel,' it separates it from other books.




I resist when someone calls me a novelist: it implies some kind of inherent superiority of the novel. I'm not a novelist, I'm a writer.




I've been a Nick Cave fan since the early '80s when he was part of The Birthday Party thing singing Australian self-destructive rock band and I've always followed his work and loved it.




I really don't feel that any of the pieces I wrote were confessions; there are no revelations about secrets in my life, and actually I have nothing to confess and I certainly do not ask for redemption and there is no reward for confessing that I expect.




I do have a sense of displacement as constant instability - the uninterrupted existence of everything that I love and care about is not guaranteed at all. I wait for catastrophes.




I did not intend to stay; I had no experience in the United States - I may have been here less than 24 hours - but I knew I would never get inside there. And 'there' not being America necessarily, but that harmonious mode of living that some people are lucky enough to have in this country.




I actually didn't listen to the Beatles song 'Nowhere Man' when I was writing my book of the same name. What I listened to a lot was 'Abbey Road.' Its disjointedness and its readiness to confuse only to delight were inspiring to me.




Memory narrativises itself.



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