“Not just an extraordinary storyteller but an extraordinary writer: one who seems not simply gifted but necessary.”–The New York Times Book Review
“By turns terrifying, gently comic and brutally satiric, these are stunning stories that compel the reader to view a world rendered ... abruptly alien and unfamiliar.”–San Francisco Chronicle
“The man is a maestro.... As vivid a prose as you will find anywhere this year, and as heartbreaking.”–Esquire
Hemon left his native Bosnia just before the outbreak of the civil war, settled in Chicago, and soon after began rigorously studying English. Unsurprisingly, his debut has been compared to the fiction of Conrad and Nabokov icons who proved that the risky business of writing in an adopted language can produce admirable results. But Conrad s crowded, premeditated sentences and Nabokov s rhythmical and metaphorical prose are quite different from Hemon s clearheaded fiction, which centers on the unique political tensions of Tito s Yugoslavia. Hemon s writing is sensible, with a hint of satire, and is heavily based on wistful description rather than farfetched dialog. Although dissimilar in format, the seven stories here echo the same nostalgic voice and the theme of dealing with the sudden eruption of childhood memories and the shifting identities of a weary immigrant. This kind of fiction doesn t betray itself, but the author s bold experimentation with form easily outsmarts the reader. The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders is actually highly suggestive of Donald Barthelme s clever symbolism, while A Coin reveals that Hemon can tell a war story in the tradition of Tim O Brien, combining magical realism with raw truth. This is the work of a rare talent who deserves our attention. Mirela Roncevic, Library Journal Mystery & suspense By Rex Klett Mitchell Community Coll., LRC,Statesville, NC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
The sound is ailing, so you wiggle knobs, jiggle wires, finally just smack the top of the speaker and—voilà—the air is suddenly full with the sound you wanted. I feel that way reading Alekaksander Hemon's new collection The Question of Bruno...The man is a maestro, and conjurer, a channeler of universes...As vivid prose as you will find anywhere this year, and as heartbreaking.
A powerful collection of stories linked by their setting: the author's native Sarajevo.
The Question of Bruno's seven short stories and a novella provide the reader with a curious mixture of fact and fiction, which blends into a successful and mostly original whole...This is an impressive book, which manipulates language in a way that both chills and satisfies.,br>&3151;Times Literary Supplement
Several of the shorter pieces are so good
as to make the reader feel certain of
having discovered not just an
extraordinary story but an extraordinary
writer: one who seems not simply gifted
but necessary. In retrospect, you begin
to worry about what could so easily have
been lost. What if Hemon had stayed in Sarajevo and suffered a
momentary cramp -- nonwriter's -- crossing Sniper's Alley?
The New York Times Book Review
Like Conrad's, Hemon's prose often makes the most of emphatically discordant notes: an initially incongruous word comes to seem a perfect choice.
Uneven but not uninteresting stories from first-timer Hemon, a Conradian figure, an exile from Sarajevo who has lived in Chicago for eight years, remaking himself into an American writer. The collection is comprised of seven stories and a novella, `Blind Joszef Pronek & Dead Souls`and as the title of that longer work suggestssome of the author's often cynical humor can be traced back to other East European writers like Gogol and Kafka. But there are also traces of influences as various as Borges and Calvino in the puzzle-joke story `The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders.` Hemon seems fascinated with trying to reproduce the creepy tactility of decay and, as might be expected from a refugee from the former Yugoslavia, extremes of senseless violence. At its worst, the result is a piece like `A Coin,` which recounts the suffering of the besieged civilians of Sarajevo in somewhat shopworn, overfamiliar terms unintentionally echoing the voyeurism that it accuses Western journalists of perpetrating. On the other hand, particularly in the novella, a recounting of the wanderings of a Sarajevan transplanted to Chicago at the outset of the civil war, and in `The Sorge Spy Ring,` a longish, clever mix of autobiographical reminiscence and historical fact with a totally unexpected dark ending, Hemon displays a considerable command of sudden shifts in tone, shuttling swiftly but surely between black comedy and bleak reality. The volume is shot through with a dry, deadpan humor that is clearly a defensive carapace grown in response to decades of Stalinist/Titoist falsifications and repression, as well as an understandable fascination with the grim detritus of Balkan history. Hemon'sprosesuffers occasionally from the overstudious diction of the non-native speaker, but he is clearly a writer of some promise.