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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Nowhere Man (2002) by Aleksandar Hemon

Book Review
Nowhere Man (2002)
by Aleksandar Hemon

  I believe Aleksandar Hemon is the type of writer you would call a "writer's writer." I.E.: critically beloved, but lacking the kind of break-out popular hit that often separates canon members from also rans in the 20th and 21st century.  A Bosnian immigrant who learned English as an adult, Hemon is frequently compared to Conrad (mmm,,maybe.) and Nabokov (closer).  The constants in his oeuvre are immigrant characters from the ex-Yugoslavia, an obsession with the impact of those wars on said characters, and a clever way with the English language- setting him apart from many native born writers.

  In Nowhere Man, apparently named after the Beatles tune, Josef Pronek- a character from his earlier short story, Blind Josef Pronek and Dead Souls, gets his own novel.  The three segments of Nowhere Man deal with three separate periods in Pronek's life: The first is his childhood in pre-war Sarajevo, the second, his student days in the Ukraine and the third, his present as a low paid solicitor for Greenpeace.   Nowhere Man ends with a digression into the life of  Russian army officer and his life in Shanghai.

  Hemon's personal back story fairly cries out for something more Conradian- an exploration of the darkness of southeast Europe, perhaps.   Two books into his catalog, my only observation is that he is largely engaged with the minutiae of day-to-day existence, and the struggles of characters on the periphery of society.  Call it the immigrant experience.

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