Aleksandar Hemon - The Lazarus Project (4 stars)

Aleksandar Hemon - The Lazarus Project

(Picador)

FICTIONAL TRAVELOGUE

Aleksandar Hemon draws on his Bosnian heritage to weave two narratives into one startling insight of a nation wracked with war, poverty and pogroms. There are obvious parallels to his own life, as Vladimir Brik travels from Chicago through Eastern Europe to research his historical novel, accompanied by his photographer friend Rora. Every other chapter switches to the book he’s writing/researching, based on the true story of the unjustified killing of young immigrant Lazarus Averbuch in 1908.

For an author who couldn’t write in English until 1995 this is an amazing work, with subtle interplay between the two time frames highlighting the festering attitude society has towards immigrants. Both strands present a gritty realism, and a darkness lurks throughout as countries react to both literal and perceived threats. Hemon refuses to preach but presents a humanity at the heart of society’s supposed problems.

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