Amy's Reviews > Nowhere Man

Nowhere Man by Aleksandar Hemon
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's review
Jul 09, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: immigrant-experience
Read in July, 2011

The stories that are connected and center around Josef Pronek are four-star-worthy. The last story was disconnected, and disturbing, and a disappointing way to end.

We see Pronek through others' eyes, in Chicago, Sarajevo, and Kiev. As a teenager in Sarajevo in the 1980s, he plays the blues because Bosnia's traditional music is so much like the blues ("sevdalinka", "sevdah" being "a feeling of pleasant soul pain, when you are at peace with your woeful life, which allows you to enjoy this very moment with abandon"). . . . In Kiev, he manages to have a surreal exchange with the first President Bush, who without a trace of irony gives a speech at Babi Yar about opposing the forces of bigotry, etc., as if those forces were all in the past. . . . In Chicago, Pronek has a brief adventure as a process server and falls in love with a Greenpeace canvasser who constantly (and very annoyingly) corrects his English.

Any single page in this book likely has a hilarious sentence and a profound sentence. Hilarious: "I thought that if another revolution were ever to break out in the USSR, it would start on a train . . . the spark would come from two sweaty a*ses rubbing." Profound: "'Look on us, we are like salt going out of hand.'"

Hemon has a lot of fun with voice, and he reminds me of how often immigrants have to endure the same thoughtless or ignorant questions. Parts of this particular book puzzled me, but I look forward to reading more of Hemon's writing.

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