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Thursday, November 23

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"I had spent my measly savings and was in the furniture-selling phase. I sold, for the total of seventy-four dollars, a decaying futon with a rich cat-barf pattern; a hobbly table with four chairs, inexplicably scarred, as if they had walked through fields of barbed wire. I was late with my rent, and had already looked up the word eviction in the dictionary, hoping that the secondary, obsolete meaning ('The action of conquering a country or of obtaining something by conquest') would override my landlord's primary meaning and save my ass."
--from Nowhere Man

Who is Jozef Pronek? Is he the young boy playing marbles in Sarajevo? The teenager who forms a Beatles cover band and serenades would-be girlfriends with "Yesterday"? The student in Kiev witnessing the collapse of the Soviet Union? Or maybe he is the canvasser for Greenpeace, going door-to-door in Chicago's suburbs, where his Eastern European accent attracts undue attention from the insular American residents he meets. Jozef Pronek's story is traced from his childhood in Sarajevo to Kiev to Chicago, where he becomes trapped in America as war breaks out in the former Yugoslavia. All the while, Pronek is closely observed by enigmatic narrators who piece together the clues to his identity. But in the shattering climax, everything we thought we knew is challenged as we learn what it truly means to be a Nowhere Man.

Background

Author Aleksandar Hemon was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1964. He came to Chicago in 1992 as part of a journalist exchange program with the United States Information Agency. Much like the protagonist of Nowhere Man, the day Hemon was scheduled to return, war broke out as Sarajevo was surrounded by the Serbian army. Hemon found himself seeking asylum in the United States as a political refugee and settling in Chicago.

Hemon's first English-language book, The Question of Bruno, was published in 2000 to wide critical acclaim. The Question of Bruno consists of seven short stories and a novella titled "Blind Jozef Pronek & Dead Souls," in which the character of Jozef Pronek is first introduced.

Nowhere Man was published in 2002, picking up the threads of Pronek's story in a full-length novel. Nowhere Man also received numerous accolades, including being nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Award in 2002.

Hemon is often compared to Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Conrad, writers who also wrote in English as a second language. But Hemon's style is all his own, and Nowhere Man is a story that is both dark and funny, real and surreal, blending fiction with autobiography to describe the immigrant experience.

Find Out More

Aleksandar Hemon Official Site
The official home for all things Hemon. Read an excerpt from Nowhere Man, reviews of the book, interviews with the author and much more.

Hemon Interview in Bomb Magazine
In this lengthy interview for Bomb Magazine, Hemon talks about truth, fiction, identity and the former Yugoslavia.

Interview in Guardian Unlimited
This biographical interview reveals some extraordinary details in Hemon's background, while the interviewer wants to know how "a refugee from Sarajevo, speaking only tourist English" evolves into a master of the language in just a few short years.

Join the Book Club

So read Nowhere Man this month and join the Gapers Block Book Club on October 10, 2005 at 7:30pm to discuss the book at The Book Cellar, located at 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. Also, be sure to subscribe to the book club email list for news, announcements, discussion and more.

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About the Author(s)

Alice Maggio is a Chicago librarian. She welcomes questions and topic suggestions for her column at . Due to the volume of email received, she may not reply to every query, but you may be contacted if your question is selected for the column.

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