Sixteen years ago, while Aleksandar Hemon was visiting Chicago, his hometown of Sarajevo came under siege. The Bosnian writer was stuck stateside, and ultimately chose to settle here permanently.
But Bosnia and Bosnians remain central to his fiction—The Question of Bruno, Nowhere Man, and now The Lazarus Project, which follows Vladimir Brik, an unhappily married Bosnian immigrant, as he researches a novel based on the true story of Lazarus Averbuch, a Jewish immigrant who survived the Kishinev pogrom only to be shot to death in 1908 by a Chicago police chief who mistook him for a radical anarchist. Brik’s inquiries take him and his friend Rora, a photographer, to the seedy hotels and desecrated cemeteries of Eastern Europe, and ultimately home to Sarajevo.
Midway through his book tour, Hemon speaks with Nextbook about the origins of the novel, the resilience of xenophobia, and the power of writing.