Aleksandar Hemon: Love and Obstacles (4 stars)

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Aleksandar Hemon: Love and Obstacles

Too tightly weaved together for your average collection of short stories, but containing sections too complete to be mere chapters in a standard novel, Love and Obstacles is a staggering achievement for this Bosnian American writer. His fourth literary work to date is a cleverly constructed cycle of linked narratives set in Africa, Slovenia and Chicago, all featuring bookish teens and messed-up types affected in some capacity by the 1992 Bosnian war.

Each tale hits hard in a variety of different ways as the characters face issues with romance, violence and drugs and although the themes are wide-ranging, youthful hope versus the harsh reality of life seems to be a constant throughout. It’s bleak in content, yes, but beautifully written as Hemon conjures up weighty sentences packed full of imagery and driven by action, experimenting with style and form from start to finish. A profound undertaking for any reader.

(Picador)

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