BOOKS
03/18/2013 11:31 am ET | Updated Mar 18, 2013

'The Book Of My Lives' By Aleksandar Hemon: The Book We're Talking About

The Book of My Lives
by Aleksandar Hemon
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, $25.00
Published on March 19th

What is it about?
Novelist Aleksandar Hemon grew up and worked in Sarajevo before moving to the U.S. in 1992 after war broke out in the former Yugoslavia. This unusual memoir is made up of short pieces, mostly previously published elsewhere, about his experiences both in his homeland and his new adopted country.

Why are we talking about it?
Hemon's novels have been highly praised, shortlisted for two National Book Critics Circle Awards and a National Book Award. This is his first book of non fiction, and has been getting a lot of attention in literary circles.

Who wrote it?
48-year-old Hemon has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur "genius grant" as well as a USA Fellowship. He currently lives in Chicago.

Who will read it?
People who are interested how a literary talent describes his own story. Readers who enjoy unusual memoirs about an oft-forgotten conflict. People who appreciate dark, cynical humor.

What do the reviewers say?

Chicago Tribune: "Sometimes sketchy, characteristically idiosyncratic and sardonic, nearly always engaging."

Kirkus Reviews: "An affecting memoir about his youth in Sarajevo and his escape and adjustment to the West."

The Guardian: "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."

Impress your friends:
According to the UN, more than 2 million people were displaced during the three-year Bosnian War, the largest displacement of people since the end of the Second World War. More than a million have since returned.

Opening line:
On the evening of March 27, 1969, my father was in Leningrad, USSR, in pursuit of his advanced electrical engineering degree. My mother was at home, in Sarajevo, deep in labor, attended to by a council of her women friends.

Typical passage:
The structure of our lives relied on the routine continuation of what we stubbornly perceived as normalcy. hence, convinced that we were merely trying to live a normal life, we embarked upon a passionate pursuit of hedonistic oblivion. there was partying and drinking every night, often into the wee hours. We also danced a lot; indeed, I published an editorial in the cultural section, written by Guša, arguing that it was everybody's urgent duty to dance more if we wanted tos top the oncoming catastrophe.

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