THE BOOK OF MY LIVES
Publisher: US - FSG
Publication Date: 19/03/2013
Translation Rights Only
Germany - Albrecht Knaus Verlag
Italy - Giulio Einaudi Editore SpA
Portuguese/Brazil only - Editora Rocco Ltda.
Spanish - world - Duomo Ediciones S.L.
Slovenia - Modrijan zalozba d.o.o.
Norway - Gyldendal Norsk Forlag
Bosnia - Knjizara Buybook
Croatia - V.B.Z.
The Netherlands - Uitgeverij Karaat
About the book:National Book Critics Circle finalist for the autobiography category
The first nonfiction book—searing, revealing, unforgettable—from one of our most acclaimed writers.
Aleksandar Hemon’s lives begin in Sarajevo, a small, blissful city where a young boy’s life is consumed with street soccer with his casually multiethnic group of friends, 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 Chicago: watching war break out in Sarajevo and the city come under siege, with no way to return home; the Hemons 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. Like Hemon’s fiction, THE BOOK OF MY LIVES 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 passion 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.
'Hemon decided that instead of just consuming culture, he would create it...Sometimes one has to make things up to make sense of it all. Hemon has mastered this.'
'One of Chicago’s finest contemporary writers and arguably its most important literary talent since Saul Below.'
'Book of My Lives: Aleksander Hemon’s remarkable tale'
'Hemon's exploration of identity is rich with psychological undertones. He'll burrow into a psyche—often his own, but occasionally someone else's—then clamber out with an armful of longings, neuroses, and fears.
Hemon grazes this crucial issue, but he never plunges into it.'
'You should read Aleksandar Hemon's memoir for the same reason you should read his fiction: He is not only a remarkably talented writer but also one of the great social observers, a cultural anthropologist who seems at home everywhere and nowhere and who balances despair with hope, anger with humor.'
npr book review
'Hemon’s memoir in essays is in turns wryly hilarious, intellectually searching, and deeply troubling. It’s the life story of a fascinating, quietly brilliant man, and it reads as such. For fans of chess and ill-advised theme parties and growing up more than once.'
The 25 Greatest Essay Collections of All Time
'Selves within selves. Lives within lives. Even life within death. What more could any reader — or writer — ask for?'
'A horror story of political turmoil, warfare and exile and, later, the loss of an infant daughter. As recounted in Hemon's new memoir, THE BOOK OF MY LIVES, it's at once unimaginable and unforgettable. And it ends--if the life story of a 48-year-old man safely ensconced in Chicago at the peak of his creative powers can be said to have ended--in a flurry of international acclaim.'
Jesse Dorris, The Times
'At the end of the book, when Hemon writes about the death of his young daughter, it is almost unbearable because we know it is true. (Don’t make the mistake of reading this on the Light Rail—like I did—and bawling publicly in front of a bunch of strangers who will wonder what the fuck is wrong with you.) Hemon is often compared to Conrad and Nabokov, other émigrés who came to English late and, yet, reinvented it as master stylists—and the comparisons are apt.'
Baltimore City Paper
'Trapped thousands of miles from home when war engulfed his native Bosnia, Aleksandar Hemon taught himself English and wrote dazzling works of fiction that earned him comparisons with Nabokov and Conrad and made him one of his generation’s most acclaimed authors. Now, with the publication of THE BOOK OF MY LIVES, he confronts his own story head-on – and it’s every bit as gripping and powerful as any he’s imagined.'
'A deft, playful, poignant memoir by writer of supreme grace and restraint...It is a testament to Hemon’s gifts that the story is pitch-black, hilarious and tender.'
The Sunday Times
'If any contemporary writer has a chance to still be around long after we’re all gone, most would lay odds that it’s the Chicagoan-via-Bosnia Aleksandar Hemon, the one who wrote his first story in English in 1995, and who garners comparisons to Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov. If Hemon’s writings stir the soul—his acclaimed books Nowhere Man, The Question of Bruno, The Lazarus Project and Love and Obstacles and regular stories in The New Yorker and elsewhere—it’s his humanity that inspires.'
'Aleksandar Hemon is, quite frankly, the greatest writer of our generation. His literature is deep, agile, funny, graceful, searing, angry, raw, questioning. It is of present and eternal use. He never loses sight of his delightful inventiveness. He gives voice to that which otherwise gets denied. THE BOOK OF MY LIVES is worth it simply for the dedication: "For Isabel, forever breathing on my chest." He writes it, and so she breathes on ours too. Such is the function of story-telling: to get to the essence of that which might eventually break our hearts. This is a book -- like all of Aleksandar Hemon's books -- that is an aria for our times. I will cherish it.'
Colum McCann, author of LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN
'Hemon's work crackles with so much humor and irony, so much compassion and humanity, that THE BOOK OF MY LIVES' true calling almost goes by unnoticed: it is, without doubt, the most necessary, intimate and heartbreaking portrait of a world lost to one of history's darkest conflicts.'
Téa Obreht, author of THE TIGER'S WIFE
'Incandescent. When your eyes close, the power of Hemon's colossal talent remains.'
Junot Díaz, author of THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER
“The Book of My Lives is written with the full force of humanity. It will make you think, laugh, cry, and remember yourself. If you’ve never read Aleksandar Hemon, prepare to have your worldview deepened.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, author of EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE
“I’m not quite sure Aleksandar Hemon counts as an American writer, but he is one of my favorite American writers. Before THE BOOK OF MY LIVES, I never really thought of him as a nonfiction person, but this new book—a memoir in essays—has some of his best writing. When Hemon’s work is funny, it can make you laugh in spite of everything, and when it is sad, it’s hard to stand up afterward.”
John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of PULPHEAD
'If any contemporary writer has a chance to still be around long after we’re all gone, most would lay odds that it’s the Chicagoan-via-Bosnia Aleksandar Hemon, the one who wrote his first story in English in 1995, and who garners comparisons to Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov. If Hemon’s writings stir the soul—his acclaimed books Nowhere Man, The Question of Bruno, The Lazarus Project and Love and Obstacles and regular stories in The New Yorker and elsewhere—it’s his humanity that inspires. Hemon not only opens his doors through his words, but also his actions: he is a regular presence at local literary events and he invites gatherings into his home. His recounting in The New Yorker last summer about the illness and death of his tenth-month-old daughter Isabel was one of the most terrifying and heartbreaking stories ever printed. He has a book of autobiographical essays coming out in 2013, entitled THE BOOK OF MY LIVES and he continues to edit the Best European Fiction series, now in its fourth rendering.'
'Readers of Hemon's previous works may see some parallels with his invented characters. But the universal truths found in his memoir feel all the more powerful for being grounded in his own, sometimes painfully real, life.'
Chicago Tribune – Book of the Month selection
'One of the happier recent phenomena in American publishing has been the popular success of exceptional essay collections (from Katie Roiphe, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Elif Batuman, and others). Bets are on Aleksandar Hemon’s wise and entrancing memoir-in-essays to be the next.'
The Daily Beast
'The book has the feel of a patchwork memoir that focuses on defining and enlightening moments in the author’s life rather than his existence as a whole. Its terrible beauty demonstrates Hemon’s transformation as a writer and a man.'
'Hemon’s technique is not conventional—this is no linear boyhood-to-manhood narrative. The chapters, in fact, could in many ways stand alone. But their cumulative emotional power—accelerated by a wrenching final section about the grievous illness of his younger daughter—eventually all but overwhelms, amuses, informs and inspires—then, finally, rips open the heart.'
'His stories seem to tell themselves, unreeling in verbal felicities that kiss the ear. A Congolese man wears "a scaphander Afro". Brassieres, drying, dangle from door handles like rabbit skins. Contagious energy flows from language that seems to be discovered in the act of composition. Where does he hail from, as a writer? All sorts of places, new and old. He adores Bruno Schulz and Danilo Kiš, yet the wrought density of their prose isn't much like Hemon's vernacular, which manages lightness along with word-perfection. His sheer gusto recalls another adoptive Chicagoan's: Saul Bellow married the soul-making grandeur of Russian literature with American high demotic.'
'THE BOOK OF MY LIVES is a memoir in connected essays, wrenching but often very funny and self-deprecating too. "There is always a story … more heart-breaking and compelling than yours," Hemon says.'
'In his first book of nonfiction, Hemon takes what might otherwise seem a group of random pieces and arranges them so they are more than the sum of their parts. On the one hand (let's be honest), that's a bit of a contrivance, since these essays were all written at different times for different venues. But the trick of the book is how Hemon makes them add up to something — if not a life, exactly, then a life in collage.'
'THE BOOK OF MY LIVES brings together essays published since 2000, most in the New Yorker. These are not memoirs, in the confessional sense, Mr Hemon says. They are intended to bear witness to real events, and fix them in time. Some essays preserve a Sarajevo youth that will never return; others probe the pain of displacement; several bitterly document the betrayal of those who destroyed his homeland.'
'The Bosnian has said that he writes "sad books for humorous people" and "humorous books for sad people". THE BOOK OF MY LIVES is a thoughtfully humorous and profoundly sad memoir-cum-collection of essays that explores Hemon's first life, growing up in the lively cultural atmosphere of Sarajevo before the onset of the war in Bosnia, and his second life as a sort of accidental exile in America, where he was effectively trapped in 1992 when the war broke out.'
'Right now, I'm reading Aleksandar Hemon's essay collection, THE BOOK OF MY LIVES. He grew up in Sarajevo and is writing about his life as a writer in the middle of a war. As I'm reading it, I'm thinking, "Oh...don't end."'
'In this way Hemon turned the bad cards dealt him by history into a winning hand: his English is unencumbered by the weight of tired, automatic associations and has the capacity to refresh the referential relation between things and the words we use to describe them. There is crispness to Hemon’s sentences.'
'Hemon's voice is intimate, funny and alive — an ideal companion for a long trip inward.'
'Fiction, says Hemon, is something he cannot not write. With nonfiction he has "to be pressed into writing". And, yes, at times THE BOOK OF MY LIVES doesn't feel like Hemon's books usually feel, as if they unquestioningly had to be written. This is a book of essays pulled together. Still, I would read it over a thousand others.'
'Whatever happens next, to any of us, I trust Hemon will continue seeking the right words, watching and waiting, and will remain among the most insightful voices of our time.'
Los Angeles Review of Books
'Hemon is consistently fun to read...he knows how to tell a story and the book has some pretty good ones.'
London Review of Books
'When the inquisitive little alien on the cover of Aleksandar Hemon's The Book of My Lives caught my eye, I presumed this slim, 220-page book would be a light read. But I was badly mistaken, and perhaps my first clue should have been the fact that Hemon, a MacArthur-winning novelist, left his native Bosnia only two months before Sarajevo fell under siege in 1992.
But don't let that deter you: This isn't a misery memoir, either. Hemon, as the title implies, seems to have lived several lives, and each comes with its own mix of hardship and joy. His childhood in ethnically mixed Sarajevo was largely a happy one, filled with friends, family, and mischief. Life wasn't all peaches and cream in the former Yugoslavia, but since I suspect most Americans know little of what Bosnia was like before its descent into genocide, Hemon's loving portrait of its capital will prove eye-opening.
Throughout it all, Hemon smoothly toggles between humor and pathos. It's fun to see his wry observations about his adopted city of Chicago (where young affluent women "carry yoga mats on their backs like bazookas") develop into a full-blown urban crush. But in the final chapter, Hemon's snark completely evaporates. Small wonder: That chapter, "The Aquarium," recounts the illness and death of his nine-month-old daughter, a powerful story that alone is worth the price of admission.
The Book of My Lives is not an easy read; nor is it overbearingly mournful. Just something I'll carry with me for a long time.'
One of The Daily Beast Best Books of 2013
One of TIME Magazine's Top Ten Nonfiction Books
Economist Books of the Year
GQ Best Books of the Year
Chicago Tribune Best Books of the Year
KC Star Top Books of the Year
Corriere della Sera 4th in the list of the 10 Best Books of 2013
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