The Lazarus Project

The Lazarus Project The Only Novel From MacArthur Genius Award Winner, Aleksandar Hemon The National Book Critics Circle Award Winning The Lazarus ProjectOn March Nineteen Year Old Lazarus Averbuch, An Eastern European Jewish Immigrant, Was Shot To Death On The Doorstep Of The Chicago Chief Of Police And Cast As A Would Be Anarchist AssassinA Century Later, A Young Eastern European Writer In Chicago Named Brik Becomes Obsessed With Lazarus S Story Brik Enlists His Friend Rora A War Photographer From Sarajevo To Join Him In Retracing Averbuch S PathThrough A History Of Pogroms And Poverty, And A Prism Of A Present Day Landscape Of Cheap Mafiosi And Even Cheaper Prostitutes, The Stories Of Averbuch And Brik Become Inextricably Intertwined, Creating A Truly Original, Provocative, And Entertaining Novel That Confirms Aleksandar Hemon, Often Compared To Vladimir Nabokov, As One Of The Most Dynamic And Essential Literary Voices Of Our TimeFrom The Author Of The Book Of My Lives

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

[Reading] ➻ The Lazarus Project By Aleksandar Hemon –
  • Paperback
  • 304 pages
  • The Lazarus Project
  • Aleksandar Hemon
  • English
  • 21 May 2019
  • 9781594483752

10 thoughts on “The Lazarus Project

  1. says:

    It s hot as hell at the moment, and I just got home after finishing this book while riding on the bus A dull eyed, fat kid at the back of the bus kept tapping on his seat with drumsticks, while his equally dull eyed, fat though not equally fat girlfriend stared into space beside him The incessant, arhythmic patter of the drumsticks drove me mad I wanted to break them over that kid s head That was, in fact, the least of what I wanted to do All of this has nothing to do with The Lazarus Project, of course, but it may say something about my present state of mind I began The Lazarus Project at the start of the year, after reading Love and Obstacles, also by Hemon I had previously read Hemon s The Question of Bruno Both Love and Bruno are collections of short pieces Both contain marvelous writing I would even say, at times, the writing is brilliant, except that I often felt a sense of detachment from it I m sure I was intended to feel a sense of detachment There s no questioning Hemon s skill He s a very careful writer, and he famously chooses words that most writers wouldn t This is usually attributed to the fact that English isn t his native language He s a keen observer, and his work is filled with telling detail the objects in a room and the way they re arranged, for instance Much of his work also deliberately fuses bits taken from Hemon s life, or what the well informed reader knows of his life, with protagonists who may or may not be Hemon s alter egos Meta is the term we use of late To be meta is to be clever, I suppose and Hemon is, without a doubt, clever It s hard, if not impossible, to read him glibly This has all worked, to a greater or lesser degree, in the two story collections I ve read, but The Lazarus Project, Hemon s first published novel, didn t work for me There are stories within stories within stories, often involving characters we barely know or don t know at all, except through the eyes of the characters telling the stories within stories within stories This is, I m sure, the point Life works that way, I can hear a grad school type or perhaps Hemon himself telling me Literature works that way and what are stories anyway What s fact What s fiction What s history And so on Questions like these are, for me at this stage, a pain in the ass They re sophomoric, unless the writer can find a way to enjoyably play with them, but Hemon s honorable but overly cautious sense of craft, of style, all but precludes that kind of play Reading this book was like being lost in a hall of mirrors, like opening a box that frustratingly contains another and so on My similes are trite, aren t they I m displaying my lack of sophistication And you know what I don t give a fuck It s hot as hell, and I can still hear that fat kid tapping on his seat with drumsticks, all the way home from work.I didn t, and don t, hate The Lazarus Project Undeniably, there s value in it There are many wonderful bits But it s my prejudice that a good novel has to have breeziness, for want of a better term, interspersed with density, and this one doesn t Of course, the problem with a great many novels is that there s too much breeziness, but too much density can be a problem, too It s not a problem with short fiction density is the raison d etre of short fiction but with a novel I need, or anyway want, to breathe every once in a while Yes, I ll climb another hill, Sarge, and I ll do it gladly if you let me take off this backpack and rest for a few minutes No Got to keep going Got to climb another hill Well, okay I knew when I signed up for the army this is what I was in for, but that doesn t mean I like it I think Hemon should stick with story collections, but I m so burned out on him at the moment that I don t know that I ll ever get around to reading Nowhere Man, his third collection It s his second, chronologically So that s what I think, but I m not going to rate this book, or any other, with stars I never did believe in rating works of art with stars, or with thumbs up or thumbs down or any of the rest of that shit I did it reflexively in the past because I gathered that it was Goodreads protocol, but I think it s reductive So there.I m going to take a bath I m going to take an aspirin I m not going to take a drink, even though I deserve one.Damn, it s hot.

  2. says:

    Jeremy gave this book three stars and said that if he d picked it up before reading Hemon s other stuff, he might have given it I feel exactly the same way This book certainly isn t bad, and I think Hemon has a lot of potential as a writer But it seems like the whole world has been telling him in the form of grant upon million dollar genius grant and over the top praise such as this guy Nabokov and this writer is not only good, he s NECESSARY that we re all really friggin fascinated by his immigrant experience story, which he keeps writing again and again And it s a decent story, as a jumping off point but after reading a bunch of his short stories, a couple of columns, his previous novel, and now this, I ve lost interest And I get the feeling that he s lost interest, too, but doesn t know what to do about it I mean, he got this grant to write about being from Bosnia, right He has to give the Guggenheims and the MacArthurs what they want I hope that at some point Hemon stops trying to mold himself in the mediocre image that his adoring critics are imposing on him, and starts working on something that really interests him.

  3. says:

    I really liked this It s all over the place and written in a style that s pretty different from what you usually expect from a book about eastern Europe, jewish pogroms in Chisinau, the Bosnian genocide, human trafficking across the Romanian border and a character, Lazarus, that bizarely unites this all together Some of the passages are exquisitely written As a Eastern European myself, I can confirm to the absolute truth of some of the descriptions of slavic people and customs, they are beautifully captured.

  4. says:

    I really tried to like this book I forced myself through 150 pages before I finally decided that it was not going to get any better The book has 2 main subjects Lazarus, a 19 year old immigrant shot in 1908 by a policeman in Chicago for unknown reasons and the story of the author that is struggling to write Lazarus s story.While the Lazarus sections are very good and engaging, the struggling writer parts are not Basically those chapters have this format Mujo joke, Rora story, author laments that he is a loser and his wife is going to leave him over and over and over I feel cheated It s as if the Hemon had writers block and wrote about it writing and the process of writing to beef up what was essentially a short story into a novel If I wanted to read about the tormented soul of the writer I d read non fictional accounts of Edgar Allen Poe.

  5. says:

    I ve been wanting to read this book for a while because I have a thing about stories true and fictional involving historical anarchists There are multiple storylines here, one taking place in the early 20th century in Chicago after Lazarus is shot by the police chief, and accused of being an anarchist This storyline is told by his older sister, Olga, who tries to make sense of his death in a land that promised opportunity, unlike their homeland in Eastern Europe Another storyline is told from a present day perspective when Brik, another Eastern European immigrant, becomes fascinated by Lazarus s story and works to find out the truth as to what really happened.It s all a fine enough book I had trouble making any real connection to anyone, though I would say, strangely, that Olga was the closest to having any real sense of personality or emotion In fact, the early 20th century storyline worked for me much better than the present day stories The stories are intertwined, but I feel the real strength worked in the historical fiction aspect I would have liked to see of that, removing Brik and the modern day timeline.I give this three stars because of the inclusion of Emma Goldman, aka Red Emma, one of my favorite anarchists from the early 20th century More could have been done with her character and her partner s, Ben Reitman But I suppose I should be pleased with their presence at all since it would be difficult talking about Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century in Chicago without mentioning them.I m not completely disappointed, but I did expect from this This shows up on The LA Times 61 Postmodern Reads List and I m not entirely sure why Probably because I don t fully grasp what is and is not postmodern because it s all a big secret apparently because I also don t get how The Scarlet Letter is postmodern, but it s on that list too, so , but I keep trying with it because I refuse to let something conquer me like that In any case, glad to be able to mark this book off that list, even if it doesn t make sense to me why it s on the list in the first place Maybe we can discuss that at our book club meeting for which we read this book.

  6. says:

    Very strange and entertaining novel Hemon s writing is charismatic, self deprecating and funny enough so that it overcomes the lack of a coherent plot It is basically the story of a Bosnian American s road trip through Eastern Europe, interspersed with the historical account of a murder of a Jewish immigrant that took place in Chicago one hundred years earlier It s not immediately clear what connects these two stories I read it as an extended commentary on the pain, alienation and wild hope that accompanies immigration itself To me this is an enjoyable subject for a novel I ll definitely be reading of Hemon s work While this novel lacked something in structure, it read so well that you can get through it in a few long sittings He is a fascinating writer.

  7. says:

    I probably would have rated this book higher than three stars if I d have come to it first among Hemon s work, but after having previously read his first two books, this one lacks some lustre Most of my problems with the book were related to where repetitive tropes from Hemon s other books seemed stale this time around He often gets compared to Nabokov since his first language is not English though Nabakov s Speak, Memory makes that claim a little problematic Both, as writers, share obsessions that can be at least partially attributed to their experiences as ex patriots Still, even as Nabokov returns again and again to stories about Russian emigr s, each character stands apart from the others and has a particularity that brings him or her to life Hemon, however, seems to only have two real characters across three books, Josef Pronek and Aleksandar Hemon himself under various guises Both characters are Bosniak Americans, thrust into life in Chicago after getting stranded there by the siege in Sarajevo It makes for intensely interesting material for the first two books, but gets old by the third Luckily, in The Lazarus Project, research starts to play a role in bringing in new fictional elements I hope he pursues of that angle in the future.

  8. says:

    In 1908, Lazarus Averbuch, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, is shot dead by the Chicago Chief of Police Almost a century later, fictional Vladimir Brik, an immigrant from Bosnia, decides to write a book about Lazarus Aleksandar Hemon s latest novel, The Lazarus Project, imagines Averbuch s life and Brik s research.Armed with a grant and a fellow Bosnian photographer, Brik returns to Eastern Europe to learn Lazarus s life there They travel through Ukraine, Moldova, and Bulgaria before finally returning to Sarajevo The chapters alternate between Brik and Averbuch, and each is accompanied with a black and white photograph.Lazarus s murder is shocking In essence, the novel suggests he is killed because the chief recognizes him not only as an immigrant but a Jew whom he suspects of anarchy These actions appear outrageous to the contemporary reader Yet, how different is early twentieth century Chicago from early twenty first century America Don t many Americans still fear immigrants Don t many Americans still fear anarchists though we now call them terrorists The reality of this comparison is disturbing.The novel also raises the interesting question of what makes an American an American While traveling in Eastern Europe, Brik often refers to himself as American rather than Bosnian At some point does he truly morph from one nationality one culture to another Does an immigrant ever truly feel American Lazarus invites contemplation and introspection At times, though, I was distracted from the novel by Hemon himself What little I know about the author s biography is surprisingly similar to his character.Hemon, like Brik, was visiting the U.S when the conflict in Bosnia broke out Hemon, like Brik, is married to an American Hemon, like Brik, received a grant to write his book Hemon and photographer Velibor Bozovic traveled through Eastern Europe researching Averbuch s story.Brik does not always have the most flattering view of his wife, his in laws, marriage, and fatherhood I continually imagined how Hemon s wife felt reading these passages.Hemon is not a native English speaker He makes some interesting vocabulary choices and seems overly obsessed with Madonna, but in general Lazarus is beautifully written I will definitely be reading Hemon.

  9. says:

    With The Lazarus Project, Aleksander Hemon establishes himself as a completely ignorable voice on the literary scene a product of hype over substance a lazy writer coasting on the unbelievable luck of winning a MacArthur grant, also known as a genius grant Hemon might be a genius, but he s definitely a bad writer.The story certainly has possibilities It simultaneously tells the story of a Jewish immigrant Lazarus murdered by a police chief in 1908 Chicago, and subsequently made out to be an anarchist who was planning to assassinate the chief, and a Bosnian born writer Brik living in Chicago who sets out to write a book about it Hemon happens to be a Bosnian born writer living in Chicago And the book s narrator, Brik, happens to have won a grant that allows him to undertake the Lazarus project It s obviously thinly veiled autobiography my guess is Hemon got tired of doing research on the real events surrounding Lazarus murder and decided to write a novel about a writer researching Lazarus murder But what really undercuts the book is that Hemon doesn t even bother to flesh out the character that s clearly based on himself There is no indication of why Brik is interested in Lazarus story He even mentions that the book, once written, will have no real impact on the world So why is he bothering Brik nevertheless runs into a childhood friend from Sarajevo, Rora, and the two go on a trip to Eastern Europe to research Lazarus origins, coming to America after suffering a pogrom an anti Jewish riot in Kishinev, then part of the Russian Empire Brik and Rora s trip is a look at how a writer and his photographer friend waste grant money than it is an insight into early 20th Century Russia There are vague connections made between Brik and Lazarus, but they amount to nothing Rora, a veteran of the war in Sarajevo during the mid 90s, tells stories of his experiences And Brik deals with his dislocation as an immigrant, leaving his home country before the war and marrying an American woman who may never truly understand him and vice versa All of this is littered haphazardly throughout the novel Never mind context, background or even some kind of focal point for the narrative Where is this all going Who are these people We don t find out Brik is such a detached narrator he witnesses and partakes in some shocking acts of violence, and then moves on as if they re nothing , we can t even infer much either We just have to assume what this novel is about The New York Times book review , which of course heaped great praise on The Lazarus Project, tried to make the connection between Lazarus being railroaded as an anarchist and post 9 11 America Weak That s as lazy and half baked as an analogy as the book itself The 9 11 attacks or aftermath are never even mentioned in the novel and there s nothing about the narrator that would suggest he s interested in making such grand connections Again, it s not at all clear why he cares about this Lazarus project There s nothing in the text to suggest why it s meaningful to him or anyone else, though it certainly could have been I say the following not to be dramatic and with no malice intended, but Hemon is a worthless hack and this book should not have been published I didn t hate it There were flashes of there being something there, but not enough Not enough to be published Simple as that If I was an editor or a friend or a member of a creative writing class reading this, I would say, you have some good stuff here but you need to flesh it out You need to add context and develop the characters You have a lot of work to do At one point, late in the novel, Brik writes that Bosnia is home, where my heart is Home is where the heart is That s what gets you a MacArthur grant these days Blatant, sappy, meaningless cliche This book, like most these days, clearly wasn t edited by an editor You wonder if the writer himself even gave it a second look after an initial draft Or did he just rest on his laurels and wait for the sycophants at the New York Times and the National Book Awards to coronate him

  10. says:

    What did I think I thought it was pretty damn good I have to confess, I had very low expectations It appealed to me because it was on the LA Times 61 Postmodern Reads list, a list that is guilty of being really hit or miss and also using read as a noun, which consistently irks me That, plus a couple of lukewarm reviews and a distressingly vague back cover teaser, prevented me from reading it as soon as I otherwise might have.But it s way less of a chore than all those things would lead you or had led me to believe Hemon gets compared to Nabokov in some of the blurbs on my copy, and while I don t think that comparison is particularly apt, there are a few understated little Nabokovian games and jokes in between all the straightforward prose that takes up the bulk of the novel E.g at one point Brik and his wife joke about naming their kid Claude or Claudette, and further joke with Cloud and Cloudette It seems pointless, until it resurfaces later in the novel when the narrator is describing the weather and refers to clouds and cloudettes.That might seem pretty minor, and in a way it is, but it also contributes to an unusual effect reading The Lazarus Project is like reading two books at once there s the text, which is as I said frillless and businesslike, and tells the parallel stories of Brik and Lazarus, two immigrants of different backgrounds but who share some important characteristics Yet there s also what lies underneath that story, a dreamlike, impressionistic fugue that traffics in connotations and web thin connections This seems mostly to be done by the clever repetition exactly twice in the novel of a word or phrase like clouds and cloudettes , one that s insignificant enough to fly mostly under the radar the first time you read it, but the second time makes you wonder did I read that in this book or elsewhere or not at all When done correctly, as it is here, it can be very unsettling.One quote, although it isn t exactly representative one character is telling a joke to another Mujo left Sarajevo and went to America, to Chicago He wrote regularly to Suljo, trying to convince him to come, but Suljo did not want to, reluctant to leave his friends and his kafana Finally, after a few years, Mujo convinces him and Suljo flies over the ocean and Mujo waits for him at the airport with a huge Cadillac They drive downtown from the airport and Mujo says, See that building, a hundred stories high I see it, Suljo says.Well, that s my building.Nice, Suljo says.And see that bank at the bottom floor I see it.That s my bank And see that silver Rolls Royce parked in front I see it.That s my Rolls Royce.Congratulations, Suljo says You ve done well for yourself.They drive to the suburbs and Mujo points at the house, as big and white as a hospital.See that house That s my house, Mujo says And see the pool, Olympic size, by the house That s my pool.There is a gorgeous, curvaceous woman sunbathing by the pool, and there are three healthy children happily swimming in it.See that woman That s my wife And those children are my children.Very nice, Suljo says But who is that brawny, suntanned young man massaging your wife Well, Mujo says, that s me.A little heavy handed, maybe, but damned if that isn t the best symbolic encapsulation of the immigrant experience in America that I ve seen in some time Sometimes the American dream can only be a dream.

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