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The Question of Bruno: Stories

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,050 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
In this stylistically adventurous, brilliantly funny tour de force-the most highly acclaimed debut since Nathan Englander's-Aleksander Hemon writes of love and war, Sarajevo and America, with a skill and imagination that are breathtaking.

A love affair is experienced in the blink of an eye as the Archduke Ferdinand watches his wife succumb to an assassin's bullet. An exiled
ebook, 130 pages
Published August 13th 2002 by Vintage (first published 2000)
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I think this book is incredible – incredibly bad. Everybody loves this book, and this astounds me. I absolutely hate it. The writing is jumbled, full of nasty depictions and often indecipherable. It is a mixture of history, biography and fiction.

(But my opinion changes by the time I reach the end of the book, so please read on!)

Here is a chapter that plays with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand:

The horses are trotting stolidly and the coach is bobbing steadily, and Archduke Franz Fe
Guillermo Jiménez
Espléndido libro. Relatos y una novella. Horror y humor muy oscuro, muy denso. Es una traducción al español de un libro originalmente escrito en inglés por un autor de origen bosnio. Y a pesar de ello se siente lo eslavo en cada una de sus páginas, de su lenguaje, de lo que observan sus personajes.

Hemon (1964) nos da ocho lados de una figura geométrica de más o de menos lados. Es difícil saberlo, pero da ocho relatos. Siete en realidad y una tremenda novella.

Uno se zambulle en un lenguaje preci
Jul 20, 2009 Alta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a Bosnian who now lives in the States and writes in English, Aleksandar Hemon has been compared to Nabokov, Conrad, Kundera and even Hrabal. While these comparisons are, certainly, flattering, it is obvious that they are made simply because these are the cultural references the reviewers or the blurbers associate with the part of the world Hemon comes from. This is a rather pathetic situation that occurs over and over with writers from other parts of the world, especially when their “exoticis ...more
Mar 04, 2008 Bobbi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i read this the first semester of my master's program. it was like a key turning in a lock. it completely changed the way i approach writing. the best collection of inter-related short stories i've read. ever.
When I first encountered the name Aleksandar Hemon, I assumed he was related in some way to Louis Hemon, who wrote a seminal novel about Quebec in which the protagonist is defeated by the Canadian winter. This misapprehension fits well into "Exchange of Pleasant Words", a mock-epic tale about a Bosnian family that manages to trace its heritage back to Homer.

I thrilled to Hemon's postmodern interweaving of fact and fiction in the short stories "The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders", "The Sorge
Feb 28, 2015 Mirela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Books fall open, I fall in.
It does not happen often, though, that I stumble across an author who whacks me off my feet, making me drown in his writing (happily and voluntarily, too). Aleks Hemon did it. It was love on first sight.

Actually Aleksandar Hemon was my friend Masha's recommendation of long ago: now I am furious with myself for such a long delay in this supreme read. Because Hemon practises some seriously expressive writing: rich narration exchanges with humorous, or dark and bitter t
Jan 01, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
The writing grabbed me from page one: there is a real rhythm to it, and the description is beautiful. The first story in the collection is the sort of "lazy childhood summer holiday" tale that you expect to be idyllic, until the writer throws in really gruesome details, like a dog killing a mongoose, dead fish caught in hooks, a tourist vomiting in the sea, a dead bee swirling in the boy's coffee, etc., etc. Then old Uncle Julius, who smells of pine cologne with a whiff of rot and decay, starts ...more
Ben Jaques
Dec 26, 2011 Ben Jaques rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been working my way through Hemon for the past year and a half and this very well be my favorite book of his. Beginning to end, it isn't as complete and satisfying as The Lazarus Project, but some stories are more beautifully written and compelling than even the wonderful novel. "A Coin" has to be one of my favorite short stories that I've ever read. In addition, as a collection of short stories, it is much better than Love and Obstacles, which is also great. The Question of Bruno is excell ...more
Chris Blocker
Oct 17, 2014 Chris Blocker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The one thing I have most appreciated about Hemon’s writing is his uncanny ability to somehow twist English words and phrases into a way which shows he doesn’t quite grasp English the way a native speak would, yet has a mastery of the language that far exceeds my own. For those who are not familiar with Hemon’s story, let me quickly say that Hemon had only a basic understanding of English when war stranded him in the United States at the age of 27. Within eight years, Hemon had written his first ...more
After the lunch, everyone became drowsy, descending from the mountains of meat to the lowlands of sleep. Snippets of conversation died off within instants, for no one's blood was capable of reaching the brain. [...] Finally, everything yielded to the stupor, and excited flies could land, after a long journey, on the continent abundant with meat and salad. They would comfortably sit on a slice of bread, greasing themselves to dazzling summer-fly glitter. Abruptly they would ascend, as if to check ...more
Erma Odrach
Jul 10, 2009 Erma Odrach rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aleksandar Hemon is a Bosnian born in 1964 who in 1992 came to live in Chicago. With a base understanding of English, by the year 2000 he went on to write The Question of Bruno in English. His style is engaging and quite polished, and when reading, one can't help think that somehow his editor played a more than vital role (in this case, his wife, Lisa Stodder). I liked most of the stories equally, but my favorite was 'The Coin', where events in Sarajevo are vivdly and horrifically depicted. From ...more
Apr 19, 2007 Maura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Aleksander Hemon is a Sarajevan who came to Chicago as a tourist (speaking little English) in 1992 when the siege of Sarajevo began, and so he didn't go back. And then, less than ten years after he arrived, he published this book of short stories in more beautiful English than I could ever hope to write. There's a passage in "A Coin" describing how best to get from point A to point B when you know you're in view of a sniper that made me feel sick for a week (which is a good thing).
Feb 15, 2009 Callie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This group of short stories is unique in that some are memior and others are not..I love the connections to serbia and the war..An esoecially funny story is the one that is written compltely as a bibliography, and if you know european history its especially a joy! The footnotes on the story about the spy might be taxing for some, but I really enjoyed it. I thought the last story dragged a little bit, but overall it was really interesting.. A GREAT travel read
B. Mason
Jan 25, 2015 B. Mason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aleksander Hemon's name has popped up a few times in the last couple weeks and given my foray into short story collections recently I figured I'd give him a try. The Question of Bruno is a beautiful and moving collection of stories dealing with childhood, the immigration experience and the struggle of being in another country while your home is ripped apart by war. "A Coin" a correspondence between Aida, a woman stuck in Sarajevo, and a man living in Chicago and that gutted me -- it's brutal -- ...more
Dec 23, 2008 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-story
The Bosnian Faulkner or maybe it's the other way around. This is why immigration will save us from the fate of the Whiffenpoof Bird.*

*bird that, according to my father, flies in ever dimimishing circles until it disappears up its own asshole.
Емануил Томов
Nov 19, 2015 Емануил Томов rated it really liked it
Главозамайваща в детайлите и усета към епитета. Чак уморителни словосъчетания от думи, които кой знае как са му хрумнали да съедини. Някакво протоколно заиграване с постмодерното, особено по в началото, но оттам нататък всички коси препратки между образи и черти на герои между разказите звучат по-скоро като един мащабен, структурен поток на съзнанието, отколкото като изрична игра.

Вниманието на Хемон към образността, сетивността и ироничните противоречия в човешкото съзнание и емоции подриват ус
Again, another talented writer who can cash in for life on the strength of his background - presenting Aleksandar Hemon, Bosnian Ukranian (but descended from the semi-mythical Alexandre Hemon - Breton is a popular surname in Brittany, as you will learn.) I like Hemon's writing. The stories I've read in The New Yorker (some of which are included in this collection, in longer form) I prefer to this collection overall, which has its strengths and weaknesses...much of Hemon's work is semi or mostly ...more
John Wyszniewski
I was surprised by the experimental leanings of Bosnian-born and raised author Aleksandar Hemon, especially when you consider that he immigrated to the United States as an adult, speaking very little English. Written in a, at times, broken English, “The Question of Bruno” is Hemon’s debut collection of short stories. Having only recently read a heart-breaking piece of non-fiction in The New Yorker, I had no idea what to expect from his fiction. Since Hemon came to English so late in life, I ques ...more
Jan 12, 2011 Edie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Within "The Question of Bruno," Aleksander Hemon’s “Blind Jozef Pronek & Dead Souls” is a narrative of discord. While the physical conflict of war swells in the background, Hemon relentlessly pairs clashing ideas and words, forging oxymorons. Indeed, the Bosnian title character ultimately comes to understand himself as an oxymoron — an “alien resident of United States." Pronek’s experience of America is similarly paradoxical. Hemon writes the country as fundamentally superficial, as a place ...more
Jun 26, 2008 Kirstie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in short stories, history, spies, immigrant experiences
Recommended to Kirstie by: Robert
I really like Aleksandar Hemon but I wish he would some ways, I think his style lends itself better to short stories, though. Still, these are all over the place. The bulk of the collection is all about Sorge the Spy Ring, which could have been much more interesting had it not dragged with it's incredibly long footnotes. There's alot about Sorge and the protagonist's father...could he be a spy? Is it possible? Complete with old pictures, it comes off half historical and half sheer rum ...more
Feb 03, 2012 Marian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
After reading the much more recent story collection, Love & Obstacles, I went back to Hemon's first book, from 2000. Disappointing. Formal experiment and "fresh," politically significant subject matter, along with many finely crafted sentences and surprising images, couldn't for me, overcome the lack of story arc and general flabbiness from which many of the pieces suffer. The novella, "Blind Jozef Pronek & Dead Souls"--strangely not identified as a novella on the cover copy of the editi ...more
Benjamin Elliott
Mar 31, 2016 Benjamin Elliott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book all in one sitting (because I was traveling and I had time). I started reading thinking that it was a novel, which was wrong. The different stories and vignettes do intersect in varying degrees and build upon an overall effect or impression of the Balkans, particularly Sarajevo, but not in any of the ways I was expecting. The stories are very impactful. I will probably read more by Hemon, and next time I'll know what's coming, maybe.
Nov 26, 2011 Ursula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
The Question of Bruno is a brilliant but almost impossible book which had me asking questions throughout my reading of it. It's both memoir and fiction and the language is, as everyone has already detailed, unexpectedly gorgeous. Certain words, images and themes are recurrent in this collection, such as the word "sundry", horrid descriptions of carnage, and the idea of being part of a tribe. Many of the stories seemed to have deliberately jumbled narratives that often paralleled the confusing ch ...more
Sep 05, 2013 Avital rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent story collection, imaginative, real, funny and heartbreaking, sometimes separately and sometimes all at the same time.
Islands is like a flash collection-a sensitive boy absorbs the funny and the horrible, watching and listening to his family.
The Life and work of Alphonse Kauders deals with the grotesque aspect of power.
The Sorge Spy Ring is a two-line story related to spies, the historical and the personal, the factual and the imagined. The touching points exist on every page and
Jan 28, 2008 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting mix of literary styles and narration tricks. Hemon playfully toys around with his own history as a Bosnian immigrant in Chicago as well as the history of Eastern Europe. The book feels half like a fantasy, half like real history. It's weird for a Chicagoan like myself to read Hemon's stories and find so many references to specific places that I know in the city. Overall, the collection benefits greatly from the inclusion of one novella, "Blind Jozef Pronek & Dead Souls," which ...more
Sharon Bodnar
Oct 31, 2014 Sharon Bodnar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is it about Eastern European writers that requires focus on the dirty, disgusting, smelly elements of life? What saves Hemon's writing is the sly humor that pops up. Best story of this collection is The Coin, a harrowing account of civilians of Sarajevo in wartime. Most interesting/humorous/disgusting are Pronek's adventures in Chicago--I must say I lived and dated in the area in my 20's and never encountered an apartment as nasty as Andrea's.

That said Hemon is an amazing writer; you would
Lee (Rocky)
Thankfully the one long story in this book is also the best one. These stories have a lot of heart, a lot of character and in some parts a real sense of urgency. The plots are I exciting or in some cases almost non-existent. The author's stilted writing style serves some of the stories better than others.
N Kalyan
Feb 04, 2014 N Kalyan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tortuous journey through post-war Sarajevo and jagged exile in Chicago. Surreal. Recommended reading for Hemon fans. This book is special because I bought it from a bookstore on the Loop during a 2-day visit to Chicago; also visited Schaumberg, a suburb, where Hemon's parents live.
Kristina Drye
Giving it a three because of the brilliance of The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders. Islands, Exchange of Pleasant Words, The Accordion, and A Coin were all good. The Sorge Spy Ring and Blind Jozef Pronek & Dead Souls were not engaging, and Imitation of Life was dull.
Celeste Fairchild
Mar 06, 2014 Celeste Fairchild rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this, but didn't slobber all over it as I'd expected to, based on his later work (which I've found mostly in The New Yorker). I don't know if this is because it's his early work (he'd just learned English, for Pete's sake)... Guess I have more reading to do!
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Hemon graduated from the University of Sarajevo with a degree in literature in 1990. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1992 and found that he was unable to write in Bosnian and spoke little English.

In 1995, he started writing works in English and managed to showcase his work in prestigious magazines such as the New Yorker and Esquire. He is the author of The Lazarus Project, which was a finalist f
More about Aleksandar Hemon...

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