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The Book of My Lives (Seria Reporterska)

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  1,812 Ratings  ·  249 Reviews
Aleksandar Hemon's lives begin in Sarajevo, a small, blissful city where a young boy's life is consumed with street soccer with the neighborhood kids, resentment of his younger sister, and trips abroad with his engineer-cum-beekeeper father. Here, a young man's life is about poking at the pretensions of the city's elders with American music, bad poetry, and slightly better ...more
ebook, 224 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Kris
Below is my review of Hemon's first non-fiction collection, which was posted at California Literary Review -- http://calitreview.com/37340/book-rev...

In the Acknowledgements to The Book of My Lives, his first volume of non-fiction, Hemon writes, “I write fiction because I cannot not do it, but I have to be pressed into writing nonfiction.” There is a feeling of reticence hanging over this collection, which is composed of revised articles and essays published elsewhere. The title The Book of My
...more
Scott
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Christ was I not prepared for this book's final essay. Originally titled The Aquarium, maybe you read it in the New Yorker in 2011, about Hemon's younger daughter? I hadn't, nor had I read any of these previously published pieces, edited slightly and assembled chronologically for a collection that amounts to Aleksandar Hemon's memoir. And for much of The Book of My Lives I was thinking the same sorts of things that I was thinking when I read his novel, The Lazarus Project. Which is, basically: t ...more
Marcello S
Sep 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ogni tanto mi metto a cercare autori di cui si parla bene ma che non ho mai sentito nominare. Aleksandar Hemon è uno di questi.
Tipo che Colum McCann scrive: "Diciamocelo, A.H. è il più grande scrittore della nostra generazione".
Non male come incoraggiamento a leggerlo.

Questo è un libro autobiografico (quelli che ne sanno lo chiamerebbero memoir) in cui ogni capitolo è un momento della sua vita.
C'è Sarajevo, la città dove è nato e che ha lasciato appena prima della guerra in Bosnia. E c'è Chic
...more
Melanie
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

At the end of her review of this stupendous collection of essays for the Kirkus Review, Jenny Hendrix writes:

"Perhaps this is why, throughout, one gets the sense that Hemon is trying to draw himself, not just as a series of characters in various essays (“I have the sense of my life as several parallel acts,” he says), but as a character whose memories, pulled together and edited, have the same kind of intrinsic artifice as the narrative of a novel. In one passage, Hemon compares his life to an a
...more
Glenn Sumi
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
Aleksandar Hemon’s first book of non-fiction is as complex and entertaining as his novels and short stories.

The Book Of My Lives is a series of personal essays that form a loose sort of memoir reflecting the various lives Hemon’s lived up until now: Bosnian child, bohemian layabout, socialist shit-disturber, American immigrant, husband, father, artist.

Born in Sarajevo, he was on a month-long trip to the U.S. when war broke out there, essentially stranding him in a new country where he could bare
...more
Roxane
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinary chronicle of one man's lives. Sweeping yet intimate. Both personal and political. Masterfully organized from the dedication through the very last word of the final essay. The intelligence and passion of these essays shall not soon be forgotten.
F.J. Nanic
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is a real pleasure and honor, if those two go together at all, to read a memoir that attained such prominence and maturity. First of all, we were both born in Sarajevo, the same generation, and we both wrote about "raja (rayah)" that old expression from the Ottoman Empire originally standing for poor people paying taxes to the Sultan, gradually deriving into a well-known synonym that in English means "mates," but also a group of adults or children usually gathered around that magic ball so in ...more
Larisa
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You think you know who you are. You have a degree or two. You have a job and a family. Perhaps you even have an expensive car, a house and a dog. Imagine one day finding yourself not having any of the above. You are thousands of miles away from what you thought was your home and you have nothing. Who are you? An alien.
The ingenious German social psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm said: "If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?” The collection of essays written by Aleksa
...more
Kiwi
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-bio
Uneven, some parts brilliant (I particularly liked his essays on immigrants and the chapter on soccer players), other less so, the last one is heart-breaking. Overall a solid 3 stars.

Favourite quotes:

The funny thing is that the need for collective self-legitimization fits snugly into the neoliberal fantasy of multiculturalism, which is nothing if not a dream of a lot of others living together, everybody happy to tolerate and learn. Differences are thus essentially required for the sense of belon
...more
Natalie
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
U početku me podsjetio na Zainovićevu-"Tajna džema od malina". Solidan pocetak, sredina mlaka a završetak "bomba". Autobiografski esej u 16 priča. Zadnji pod naslovom "Akvarij" otkriva životnu dramu i nikog neće ostaviti ravnodušnog.
Odličan i dugo će se pamtiti nakon pročitane knjige.
Philip
Generally speaking, I choose my books carefully. I think this is why I have so many 3, 4, and 5 star books on my shelf. Maybe I'm just a generous guy...

The Book of My Lives resonated with me for several reasons. I was an exchange student to Croatia in 2000. The war had been over for several years, and they were in the process of rebuilding. Still, there was a lot of uncertainty and rumor in the United States about what the country that had so recently gone through such tragedy would hold. I went
...more
Diane S ☔
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not a linear expose of Hemon's life but rather musings and dialogues of some important events that impacted his life. The first and last story begin and end with an infant struggling for life. The last story particularly heartbreaking and difficult to read. Leaving his native Sarajevo, just weeks before violence breaks out, this is also a book about displacement and how it feels to watch what is happening to your country on a television set. His stories of Sarajevo, his home pre-war ...more
Madeleine
Oh, look, another book I've read and will eventually get around to copy-and-pasting its review.
Ismar
May 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aleksandar Hemon- Knjiga mojih života
"Knjiga bi postajala nepregledni, kompleksni prostor u mojoj glavi, koji nisam mogao napustiti ni dok jedem, ni dok hodam, niti dok spavam - živio sam u tom prostoru."
"Knjiga mojih života" je autobiografska zbirka od 16 eseja, koliko bosanskohercegovačkog toliko i američkog književnika ukrajinskog porijekla Aleksandra Hemona.
U svojoj suštini, autor kroz autobiografiju iz sjećanja izvlači tri żivota, tri okvira u koje reda vlastite uspomene.
"Sada više ne znam
...more
Damjan Zorc
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hemonovih petnajst avtobiografskih esejev, zbranih pod imenom Knjiga mojih življenj, je posnetek poti iz radoživega, živahnega Sarajeva prejšnjega stoletja, ki se razcepi ob razpadu Jugoslavije, spremeni v živo blato vojne, ki se je že nekaj časa izrisovala na horizontu, ter se, še vedno – in za vedno – z ostrimi kamenčki v razseljenskih čevljih, konča v Ameriki, deželi, ki obljublja zgodbe. Deželi, ki te z eno roko treplja po ramenih, z drugo ščipa v vrat.

In Hemon ima zgodbe. Nostalgične, stvar
...more
Iva
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hemon is an extraordinary writer. Up until now he has mostly published fiction with occasional essays about his life in Bosnia and how he wound up in Chicago, a city he admires on many levels. Many of these pieces were published in the New Yorker and other literary journals. There is so much to admire here: his love of family, the sadness of his parents having to emigrate from Bosnia to Canada, his love of animals; it painful to read of his losses. Hemon is a writer who extends and broadens our ...more
Suzy
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I loved this collection of essays from Hemon's life in Bosnia before the war, during the war and after emigrating to Chicago. I laughed, cried, was inspired and crushed by his exquisitely drawn stories of "his lives". His glimpse into what life is like when forced to leave where you were born because of tragic circumstances enriched me. Having lived in Chicago made an even stronger connection for me.

I have not read Hemon's fiction, but I will!
Katie
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016, memoir
This has been on my list for a long time, and I'm glad I finally got to it. It's beautiful and sharply funny and full of visceral feeling. It's also, in many parts, strikingly and uncomfortably apropos for the current historical moment.
Opica
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nekaj najlepšega, kar sem prebrala v zadnjem času. Rahločuten opis življenja polnega zanimivih srečanj, zabavnih prigod, tragičnih zgodb in pronicljivega razmišljanja o sebi in svetu. Knjiga, ki je ne moreš le brati, ampak jo nosiš s seboj v mislih tudi potem, ko se že zdavnaj konča.
Samin Rb
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Got impressed particularly by the last chapter Aquarium, I could literally experience how pain and sorrow was getting into me through reading.
Chris Blocker
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-2017
Dear Sasha,

May I even still call you by you that name? Perhaps we should stick with more formal titles. I hope I may still call you Aleksandar. Surely, our relationship is not so torn that we have to refer to one another by our surnames.

We've known each other for some years. At least I've known of you. I first encountered your words eight years ago now. From across a room, your gorgeous prose seduced my ears. They were words spoken with grace. The selection was read during a lecture on word choi
...more
Frabe
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frammenti autobiografici di Hemon, bosniaco nonché statunitense dopo l’emigrazione nel 1992 allo scoppio della guerra balcanica: scrittura bella, coinvolgente, con acme di commozione nel finale quando Hemon racconta la morte della sua piccolissima figlia Isabel.
Paul Fulcher
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Overall a worthwhile read - but read all of his fiction by preference.

I'm a big fan of Hemon's fiction - short-stories, novels and indeed works that fall between the two. But I was rather disappointed by this, his first non-fiction book.

The source of the problem is revealed in the "Table of Discontents" (his pun, not mine) in the appendix - most of these pieces have appeared elsewhere, and while they have been "revised and edited" for this book, the overall effect is still that this doesn't come
...more
Prakriti
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first Aleksandar Hemon book, and it is exquisite. 15 short essays spread over different time periods in the author's life, non-fiction, a sort of a memoir, but fitting in none of those genres or cliche boxes. By his own admission, Hemon doesn't tend towards writing non-fiction, preferring instead to let the stories simmer in his mind till fiction evolves from them. It is a rare pleasure hence, to read words from him about himself, and his life. And what words!

From this review in the I
...more
Kenley
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great series of essays (most of which were published in The New Yorker). I would like to read his fiction next..

This scene, when Hemon is playing chess with his friend Peter spoke to me:
"I remembered how, a few weeks before, he had gone off at a couple of Loyola students who were babbling at the next table, copiously abusing the word like, barely slowing down to take a breath. I'd been annoyed by the incessant vacuousness of their exchange, the idiotic frequency of the likes, and I cou
...more
Jen Hirt
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aleksandar Hemon's nonfiction, where have you been all my life? Although I cannot read the final essay ("The Aquarium," which I first read in The New Yorker) without dissolving into tears over his infant daughter's illness, I bought this book and eagerly settled in for Hemon's story of his life: born in Sarajevo, a sardonic intellectual revolutionary from the get-go, followed by a fortuitous move to Chicago and bitter-brilliant insights about his split life.

All these pieces were previously publi
...more
Giovanna
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Esattamente come Ella, mi ero trovato con un surplus di parole, la cui ricchezza superava di gran lunga i ridicoli limiti della mia biografia. Avevo avuto bisogno di uno spazio narrativo in cui estendere me stesso.

Ecco perché, in questo libro struggente, Hemon parla non tanto della sua vita, quanto delle sue vite, comprese e filtrate grazie al linguaggio scritto. Con il linguaggio si crea una pluralità di mondi e, nei diversi capitoli, Hemon non vuole tanto raccontarci la sua storia, quanto sdop
...more
Daisy
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Daisy by: Amy Henry
Some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read. Tragic, comic, realistic, poetic. The final essay is absolutely shattering.

Also, chocolate would be hard to get. (after his sister was born)

When we came back with our treasure, Mother informed us that we were required to participate in an evening family walk. (Bowie's "Low", in Italy)

Then everyone would retreat for a nap, after which we would have coffee and cake, sometimes an argument.

"We send him to Ethiopia," the bad cop said, "and this is ho
...more
Maureen Milton
Recommended by a Bosnian immigrant friend, this title is engaging, a parallel post-Soviet life to my quiet tribulations in '80s-era U.S. suburbia. So far, I have already determined to use the borscht portion with my classes as a "mentor text" to their description of a memorable meal. A brutal highlight of this book is the memorable chapter called "Let There Be What Cannot Be" in which the narrator is "parsing the details of the catastrophe [the Bosnian genocide by the Serbs] to understand how it ...more
Jeremy Birks
Aleksandar Hemon narrowly escaped the horrific scenes of the Bosnian War leaving for the United States just weeks before its outbreak. He thought he would be gone only one month on a short study abroad fellowship when he set out for Chicago in the early 1990s. He did not return to his native city of Sarajevo until after the war and after he had moved to Chicago heart and soul.

I loved this book but it is not one linear story of Hemon's life like a traditional memoir. This book takes its name par

...more
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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
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“Projecting yourself until everything is talking about you is, of course, a self-flattering form of self-pity” 9 likes
“We hated pretentiousness; it was a form of self-hatred.” 8 likes
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