The Book of My Lives

Christopher Tayler writes:

‘My story is boring,’ the narrator says in Aleksandar Hemon’s story ‘The Conductor’, in Love and Obstacles (2009): ‘I was not in Sarajevo when the war began; I felt helplessness and guilt as I watched the destruction of my hometown on TV; I lived in America.’ He means it’s boring in comparison with the character he’s discussing, a Muslim poet from Sarajevo who stays put for the siege and later awes his hosts in Iowa City with week-long drinking binges and furious bouts of composition. (‘American poets used to be like that,’ a professor of Slavic languages says wistfully. ‘Now all they do is teach and complain and fuck their students on the sly.’) But of course he’s also gesturing towards his own role as a projection of the Hemon self, a self that’s been doubled, reimagined and refracted in four books of fiction so far without straying too wildly from the same biographical outline.

(LRB 23 May 2013)

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