Aleksandar Hemon

Aleksandar Hemon (born September 9, 1964) is a Bosnian-American fiction writer, essayist, and critic. His best known novels are Nowhere Man (2002) and The Lazarus Project (2008).

Aleksandar Hemon
Born (1964-09-09) September 9, 1964
Sarajevo, SFR Yugoslavia
OccupationShort story writer, novelist and columnist
Alma materUniversity of Sarajevo, Northwestern University
Literary movementPostmodernism
Notable worksThe Lazarus Project (2008)

He frequently publishes in The New Yorker, and has also written for Esquire, The Paris Review, the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, and the Sarajevo magazine BH Dani.

Early life

Hemon was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, then Yugoslavia, to a father of partial Ukrainian descent and a Bosnian Serb mother.[1] Hemon's great-grandfather, Teodor Hemon, came to Bosnia from Western Ukraine prior to World War I, when both countries were a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


Hemon graduated from the University of Sarajevo and was a published writer in former Yugoslavia by the time he was 26.[2]

Since 1992 he has lived in the United States, where he found himself as a tourist and became stranded at the outbreak of the war in Bosnia. In the U.S. he worked as a Greenpeace canvasser, sandwich assembly-line worker, bike messenger, graduate student in English literature, bookstore salesperson, and ESL teacher.

He is the winner of a MacArthur Foundation grant.

He published his first story in English, "The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders" in Triquarterly in 1995, followed by "The Sorge Spy Ring," also in Triquarterly in 1996, "A Coin" in Chicago Review in 1997, "Islands" in Ploughshares in 1998, and eventually "Blind Jozef Pronek" in The New Yorker in 1999. His work also eventually appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. Hemon also has a bi-weekly column, written and published in Bosnian, called "Hemonwood" in the Sarajevo-based magazine, BH Dani (BH Days).

Hemon is currently a professor of creative writing at Princeton University,[3] where he lives with his second wife, Teri Boyd, and their daughters Ella and Esther. The couple's second child, 1-year-old daughter Isabel, died of complications associated with a brain tumor in November 2010. Hemon published an essay, "The Aquarium," about Isabel's death in the June 13/20, 2011 issue of The New Yorker.


In 2000 Hemon published his first book, The Question of Bruno, which included short stories and a novella, to overwhelmingly positive reviews.

His second book, Nowhere Man, followed in 2002. Variously referred to as a novel and as a collection of linked stories, Nowhere Man concerns Jozef Pronek, a character who earlier appeared in one of the stories in The Question of Bruno. It was a finalist for the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award.

In June 2006, "Exchange of Pleasant Words" and "A Coin" was published by Picador.[4]

On 1 May 2008, Hemon released The Lazarus Project, inspired by the story of Lazarus Averbuch, which featured photographs by Hemon's childhood friend, photographer Velibor Božović. The novel was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award, and was named as a "New York Times Notable Book" and New York magazine's No. 1 Book of the Year.[5]

In May 2009, Hemon released a collection of stories, Love and Obstacles, which were largely written at the same time as he wrote The Lazarus Project.

In 2011, Hemon was awarded the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award chosen by the judges Jill Ciment, Salvatore Scibona, and Gary Shteyngart.

Hemon's first nonfiction book, The Book of My Lives, was released in 2013.

Hemon's novel The Making of Zombie Wars was released in 2015.[6]

He published his second work of non-fiction, My Parents: An Introduction, in 2019.

On August 20th, 2019, it was announced that his script for the fourth Matrix film (co-authored with David Mitchell and series creator Lana Wachoswki) would be produced in early 2020.

Critical reception

As an accomplished fiction writer who learned English as an adult, Hemon has some similarities to Joseph Conrad, which he acknowledges through allusion in The Question of Bruno, though he is most frequently compared to Vladimir Nabokov.[7] All of his stories deal in some way with the Yugoslav Wars, Bosnia, or Chicago, but they vary substantially in genre.



Short fiction
  • "The Liar", collected in The Book of Other People (Zadie Smith, editor)
  • "Love and obstacles". The New Yorker. 81 (38). November 28, 2005. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  • "The noble truths of suffering". The New Yorker. 84 (29). September 22, 2008. Retrieved October 20, 2010.


  • 2014 "The Matters of Life, Death, and More: Writing on Soccer", ISBN 9780374713164
  • 2015 "My Prisoner", ISBN 9780374713102
Short story collections
  • 2000 The Question of Bruno, ISBN 9780385499231
  • 2009 Love and Obstacles. Riverhead Books, ISBN 9781594488641.
  • 2010 Best European Fiction 2010
  • 2010 Best European Fiction 2011
  • 2011 Best European Fiction 2012
  • 2012 Best European Fiction 2013


  1. "Aleksandar Hemon u Leksikonu" (in Croatian). August 31, 2007. Archived from the original on December 17, 2009. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  2. 17th Prague Writer's Festival page: "Aleksandar Hemon," Archived June 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. "Aleksandar Hemon". Lewis Center for the Arts. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  4. Hemon, Aleksandar (2006). Exchange of Pleasant Words: And, A Coin. Picador. ISBN 978-0-330-44581-8.
  5. "2008 National Book Awards Winners and Finalists, The National Book Foundation". Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  6. Gilbert, David (June 2, 2015). "'The Making of Zombie Wars,' by Aleksandar Hemon". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  7. Rohter, Larry (May 15, 2009). "Twice-Told Tales: Displaced in America". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  8. Kirsten Reach (January 14, 2014). "NBCC finalists announced". Melville House Publishing. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  9. "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. January 14, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  10. United States Artists Official Website Archived October 21, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  11. "American Society of Magazine Editors – National Magazine Awards 2012 Finalists Announced". April 3, 2012. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  12. Stacey Mickelbart (August 11, 2011). "The 2011 PEN Honorees in The New Yorker". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
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