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Love and Obstacles


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About the Author

Aleksandar Hemon is the author of The Lazarus Project, Love and Obstacles, The Question of Bruno, Nowhere Man and The Book of My Lives. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Genius Award, the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, the PEN/W. G. Sebald Award, and, most recently, a 2012 USA Fellowship. He lives in Chicago.


In this book of eight short stories by Bosnian American writer Hemon (The Lazarus Project), the bold, humorous, and unpredictable writing makes readers forget that love has been coupled with other nouns in book titles so frequently that it's become cliche. The same narrator links the stories; some characters are recurring; and, as in some of Hemon's earlier fiction, a common theme is the narrator's active role in shaping his own persona, an endeavor that transcends nationality. In "Death of the American Commando," the narrator tells a young woman interviewing him for a documentary a grotesque fabrication from his childhood that counteracts the charming stories his mother told her when she visited his family. In "The Noble Truths of Suffering," the narrator, after some success himself as a writer, is barely able to hide his affected aloofness in the presence of a Pulitzer Prize winner. In both stories, the narrator loathes and craves their adulation. Readers who've enjoyed Hemon's earlier fiction won't be disappointed; readers who are new to Hemon will be grateful that they've discovered a refreshingly uncorrupted voice. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/09.]-K. H. Cumiskey, Duke Univ. Libs., Durham, NC Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Bosnian-born Hemon (The Lazarus Project) again beautifully twists the language in this collection of eight powerful and disquieting stories. The 1992 Bosnian war colors in the background of all the tales, whose settings range from Africa to Chicago and Sarajevo. Arranged chronologically, all but one feature a Hemon-like narrator named Bogdan, first met as a surly teenager during his diplomat father's assignment in Zaire, where he's happily corrupted by a degenerate American espionage agent. In each successive story, Bogdan recalls the surreal and salient experiences of his life: his youth with his ironically depicted family; his early determination to be a poet; his accidental sojourn in America, where he was caught after the commencement of hostilities in Bosnia; and his return to a "cesspool of insignificant, drizzly suffering," where he has a transformative night interviewing a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. Hemon arranges words like gems in a necklace. A necktie is "stretched across the chair seat, like a severed tendon"; a car is "stickered with someone else's thought"; a character's teeth are "like organ pipes." Writing with steely control and an antic eye, Hemon has assembled another extraordinary work. (May) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Praise for Love and Obstacles
A New York Times Notable Book

"You may feel nearly giddy with pleasure at how beautifully written, funny, and entertaining [these stories] are, and at the depths of tenderness and seriousness swirling beneath their wry, deceptively offhand surface." -- Francine Prose, O, the Oprah Magazine

"Marvelous and original... Hemon writes with a peculiar grace, somehow both reckless and unflinching, both troublingly absurd and absolutely precise." -- The Boston Globe

"The stories are scarred elegies, quickened with poetry, anger, violence, wistful love, and, throughout, Hemon's extraordinary lyric freedom." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Reviewers find it difficult to resist comparing Aleksandar Hemon to Nabokov, since both men [have a] preternatural facility in their second, acquired language." -- The Washington Post

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