The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon

82%

9 Critic Reviews

Decades ago in Sarajevo, this talented writer had a radio programme called “Sasha Hemon Tells You True and Untrue Stories”. Readers would do well to tune in to his new stories now.
-The Economist

Synopsis

Aleksandar Hemon's lives begin in Sarajevo, a small, blissful city where a young boy's life is consumed with street soccer with the neighborhood kids, resentment of his younger sister, and trips abroad with his engineer-cum-beekeeper father. Here, a young man's life is about poking at the pretensions of the city's elders with American music, bad poetry, and slightly better journalism. And then, his life in Chicago: watching from afar as war breaks out in Sarajevo and the city comes under siege, no way to return home; his parents and sister fleeing Sarajevo with the family dog, leaving behind all else they had ever known; and Hemon himself starting a new life, his own family, in this new city.

And yet this is not really a memoir. The Book of My Lives, Hemon's first book of nonfiction, defies convention and expectation. It is a love song to two different cities; it is a heartbreaking paean to the bonds of family; it is a stirring exhortation to go out and play soccer—and not for the exercise. It is a book driven by passions but built on fierce intelligence, devastating experience, and sharp insight. And like the best narratives, it is a book that will leave you a different reader—a different person, with a new way of looking at the world—when you've finished. For fans of Hemon's fiction, The Book of My Lives is simply indispensable; for the uninitiated, it is the perfect introduction to one of the great writers of our time.A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013

 

About Aleksandar Hemon

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Born in Sarajevo, Aleksandar Hemon visited Chicago in 1992, intending to stay for a matter of months. While he was there, Sarajevo came under siege, and he was unable to return home. Hemon wrote his first story in English in 1995. His work now appears regularly in The New Yorker, Granta, The Paris Review, and Best American Short Stories. He is the author of The Question of Bruno and Nowhere Man, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Hemon was awarded a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation in 2004. Riverhead will publish Hemon’s next book, Love and Obstacles, in 2009.
 
Published March 19, 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 223 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Book of My Lives
All: 9 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 1

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Andrew Anthony on Apr 13 2013

...words did not fail Hemon. Like Nabokov, he is a writer who knows how to make words succeed in the most unpromising places.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Leo Robson on Mar 08 2013

...this one, presented as non-fiction, is inscrutable and chaotic. Imagine a jigsaw puzzle with a thousand pieces but no pattern, and you begin to understand this book's awesome powers of frustration.

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NPR

Excellent
Reviewed by Benjamin Percy on Mar 19 2013

What could have been dangerously sentimental is instead a brutal meditation on life and suffering. I usually think of myself as emotionally shielded. I rarely allow myself to cry, but this essay slashed through my defenses.

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Mark Athitakis on Apr 04 2013

We humans are lucky, Hemon suggests. We’re designed to tell stories that build bridges across our displacement. “The Book of My Lives” is filled with stories that do the job brilliantly.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by David L. Ulin on Mar 28 2013

Part of what Hemon is tracing is his own awakening, his discovery that what we say and do matters, that there are consequences for everything.

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Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Michel Basilieres on Mar 29 2013

Hemon writes about this with an admirable restraint and yet manages to convey his deep sadness...Hemon’s essays explore the hopes and anguish that make us who we are.

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The Economist

Excellent
on Apr 06 2013

Decades ago in Sarajevo, this talented writer had a radio programme called “Sasha Hemon Tells You True and Untrue Stories”. Readers would do well to tune in to his new stories now.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Jeet Heer on Apr 04 2013

...The Book of My Lives is a splendid collection, harrowing in its account of both the war in the former Yugoslavia and other tragedies.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Jeet Heer on Mar 28 2013

Hemon is less an orchestra than a good rock band: lively, emotionally charged, contemporary and occasionally profanity-laden. Still, to even be worthy of comparison with Nabokov (or Conrad) is an achievement any writer can be proud of.

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Reader Rating for The Book of My Lives
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