The Lazarus Project
Hemon had published several books in Sarajewo, before he came to the States in 1992, and stayed there when the Bosnian war broke out. His first book in English “The Question of Bruno” (2000) became an immediate success, if the blurb is to be trusted.
In his latest novel his protagonist Brik, an unsuccessful writer and immigrant from Bosnia, married to a very successful neurosurgeon, desperately wants to show his wife and her American family, that he can also find a place in their society by writing a bestseller novel. It is his Lazarus project about a young Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, who came to the USA around 1900 and was shot to death by a Chicago police chief, when he wanted to deliver a message.
First Brik does research on Lazarus and his background in Chicago. Then he gets a generous grant and travels to Moldavia with his photographer friend Rora, another Bosnian, to find out more about Lazarusīroots there. They travel round an utterly run-down, depressed country and finally rent a car with driver to escape to Sarajevo.
This city means home for Brik, although Rora gets killed by a young criminal, who is after his camera. In the end Brik canīt make up his mind if he wants to go back to the States and his wife or stay in Sarajevo.
Like Ulinich in “Petropolis”, Hemon feels he canīt just talk about his own difficulties and experiences in getting to grips with his new country, the USA, but has to mirror his own problems by writing about the Jew Lazarus to give his story more credibility. Another twist in his narrative is, that he wants to describe the horror of the war in Bosnia, but canīt do it from first hand experience. So Rora has to take over providing all the gruesome details - and lots of Bosnian folk lore as well.
Whereas Hemonīs plot does not find its way to the readerīs heart, his linguistic brilliance is truly breathtaking and makes the English language shine and glitter with an almost oriental abundance.