The Book Of My Lives
Known for his book "The Lazarus Project," Aleksandar Hemon returns with something a little different, some non-fiction entitled "The Book of My Lives." The Bosnian-American writer is often compared to one of the greatest Russian novelists of all time, Vladimir Nabokov. The comparison might sound ludicrous, as Nabokov has written some of the world's most important novels, but Hemon is certainly capable of writing such a thing. He just hasn't done it yet ("yet" being the operative word). But Hemon, a postmodernist if anything and also a novelist and columnist, does likes to dip into the Yugoslav wars, Bosnia, or Chicago, where he now lives; and these all make for interesting landscapes.
His first non-fiction is a portrayal of his life from various eras, and explores his loves, hates and all the things we as humans place in between them. Growing up in Sarajevo, the author brings some of the delicious socialist aesthetic to the book and manages to paint a dark black picture if anything. However, as much as these parts of the book are hard to read, it is the Chicago exile life to which he escapes that thrills. Finding himself, finding his voice and allowing himself to be free and live feels all too familiar and beautiful.
Hemon, a smart and interesting man, may not have had enough of a life for a memoir as such, but he manages to write a self-depreciating and smart piece of work. There is a realness, a hard in-your-face kind of reality that he manages to bring - even if it is ever so painful, it's necessary to feel the pain to be reminded of real life. The Bosnian has said to The Guardian that he writes "sad books for humorous people" and "humorous books for sad people." Marvelous revelations for an author like Hemon to utter - especially in today's world, where the divide is ever so confusing.
There is a painful chapter in "The Aquarium" about his daughter's brain tumor that is difficult to view, never mind read. He comes undone, and we see a little piece of humanity so perfectly apt that we cannot deny its validity or its relevance to ourselves. But, the sting like a flat handed slap, stays just long enough.
"The Book of My Lives"
by Aleksandar Hemon