oneiro: (jennifer beals)
Recently I've had the pleasure of reading Aleksandar Hemon. Two short stories by him were assigned in my Creative Writing class, and I instantly fell in love with his style.

Since I'm sure most of the people I am friends with are literary people to some degree, I figured I'd spread the joy. :]

A little bit about him: He is Bosnian and was a published writer in former Yugoslavia by the time he was 26. He learned English in 3 years, and published his first English story in 1995. For more info: wiki.

So what struck me immediately upon reading him was his wonderful use of the English language. His prose is great. And whenever someone proves themselves to be a masterly wielder of language, I of course immediately think of Nabokov, the king of all words. And then when I went to his wiki page, it said he's been compared to Nabokov, so that got me excited.

But it's not about being like Nabokov - that's just an incidental comparison. His stories are great, his descriptions, his dialogue, his humor, his structure... everything. I love it. He's definitely an original. He stands out.

This is a great article on Hemon full of some really interesting things that I'm going to pluck out and post here:

“Even then, his prose was full of small surprises and had a wonderful and profoundly meaningful tension between a dark subject material and a manner that can seem playful or even offhand,” said Reg Gibbons, a poet and Northwestern University literature professor who at the time was editor of TriQuarterly, the literary magazine that published that first story, “The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders.” “It wasn’t just the angle at which he sees things, but the language itself, which had a kind of hyper, acute sense of the possibilities of English that a native speaker wouldn’t necessarily have.”

I find it very interesting that the foreign perspective can affect how you use the English language, and introduce possibilities that native speakers may not have considered. The concept totally makes sense, I just never thought of it before.

Critics have tended to assume that Mr. Hemon’s use of such techniques is a result of his writing in a language that was originally foreign to him. But he says it’s not, and relates it to his broader distaste for minimalism: “I do it in Bosnian just as much, if not more, because it’s part of my sensibility, because I respond to the sensuality of adjectives.”

This made me like him even more because I too have a distaste for minimalism. It isn't all-encompassing though. Any approach to writing can be genius. I just generally don't like sparse prose. But I love Vonnegut, so there you go.

Partly because of his émigré origins and Slavic background — his father, an engineer, is of Ukrainian descent and his mother, an accountant, is Serbian — Mr. Hemon is often compared to Vladimir Nabokov. He readily acknowledges the influence, saying that he considers “Lolita” “the greatest American novel” and Nabokov a master stylist.


The stories I read were "Good Living" and "Szmura's Room", both part of the book "Love and Obstacles." "Szmura's Room" literally made me laugh out loud.

Really, this is an extremely talented author, and... just check him out if you're in the mood for something new.


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April 2012

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