Benjamin's Reviews > The Lazarus Project

The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon
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's review
Dec 05, 2008

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Read in December, 2008

The Lazarus Project follows two storylines, one about a late 19th century Jewish-Ukrainian immigrant to Chicago who is murdered by the Chicago Chief of Police, and the other following a writer researching a novel-to-be about that immigrant by traveling through Southeastern Europe. The latter drags a little at times as the narrator gets bogged down in Ukrainian Jewish Cultural Centers and the like, but the story of Lazarus, the immigrant is good enough to pull the reader through.

Hemon's style is what drives the book really. He learned English as a second language and, while he is obviously fluent now (this is no broken English), there is definitely a different feel to his prose. It's simple, but not simplistic, and maybe put together with a little more appreciation of the words themselves (then again, that sounds like newspaper book review bullshit).

The book reads as a weird side-by-side mix of true crime and Eastern European wanderings and all I could picture was Elijah Wood wearing huge glasses in the Ukraine. The synthesis of the two doesn't quite come off: the true crime bits about the murdered immigrant are fascinating and well seen, but the other parts are not so vividly told and tend to meander too much for my liking about the narrator's philosophical interpretation of his bad relationship with his father-in-law. This is essentially a mediocre story chopped up with a great one. The results are what you might expect.
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