Your saved articles can be found here. Join now to start saving articles today. Some of those who tell the story are named, others remain anonymous. It is not immediately clear that the narrator we first encounter, who recalls playing marbles with Pronek as a child in Sarajevo, is a different person from the one who falls in love with him as a student in Kiev. The final section of the book, ostensibly about a certain Captain Evgenij Pick, who is exiled from revolutionary Russia to Shanghai, throws the whole pack of cards that Hemon has been busily and entertainingly shuffling up into the air.
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Jozef Pronek, the quirky Sarajevan who captured the imagination of readers in Hemon's acclaimed story collection The Question of Bruno , gets full-length treatment in this acutely self-aware and tender first novel. Hemon plunges into the inner world of the observant Pronek, making ordinary events seem extraordinary through the sheer power of his detailed descriptions as his protagonist navigates the war-torn land that was once Marshal Tito's Yugoslavia and the wilds of Chicago in the s.
Death is a constant companion for Pronek, as is a mysterious man who shadows him wherever he goes, and their lockstep journey is at the heart of a book that wanders back and forth through time and space.
Hemon is stingingly accurate in his portrayal of the small, pivotal moments of youth: Pronek resorting to sliced onions to make himself cry at his grandmother's funeral, his first bungling effort at sex, his noisy rock band and his humiliating stint as a soldier. When Pronek goes to Kiev to visit his grandfather, Hemon effectively spells out his need to make sense of his life and his frustrated nationalism, his love for a country that seems to no longer love itself.
The weight of such reflections are counterbalanced by zany scenes like Pronek's encounter with President G. Bush at a ceremony on the site of the Babi Yar massacre. As a "nowhere man," Pronek travels to Chicago, where he is out of step with the alienated youth culture, a person with a dubious identity and past that is not fully explained until the final chapter.
Pronek's constantly reconfiguring life makes the novel a wild, twisty read, and Hemon's inimitable voice and the wry urgency of his storytelling should cement his reputation as a talented young writer.
Forecast: As a novel, and a novel featuring the already celebrated Jozef, Nowhere Man should build on the success of The Question of Bruno and easily surpass it in sales.
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Look Inside. Moving, disquieting, and exhilarating in its virtuosity, Nowhere Man is the kaleidoscopic portrait of a magnetic young man stranded in America by the war in Bosnia. An exiled writer, working in a sandwich shop in Chicago, adjusts to the absurdities of his life. Love letters from war torn Sarajevo navigate the art of getting from point A to point B without being shot.
Review: Fiction: Nowhere Man by Aleksandar Hemon
The engagingly gauche, drolly unforgettable Jozef Pronek first appeared in Aleksandar Hemon's impressive debut collection of stories, The Question of Bruno Like Hemon, the hapless Bosnian was visiting Chicago in when the siege of Sarajevo blocked his return. Through the immigrant Pronek's despairing entry into the lower depths of the US labour market, and his sharpening awareness of death as the Bosnian war unfolds on CNN, Hemon probed "how easy it was to become someone else, a complete stranger to oneself". Nowhere Man, Hemon's first novel, amplifies the adventures of this anti-heroic alter ego. Moving back and forth in time and between countries, it obliquely glimpses Jozef Pronek through various narrators' eyes.