Aleksandar Hemon

Aleksandar Hemon bigraphy, stories - Short story writer, novelist, columnist

Aleksandar Hemon : biography

September 9, 1964 –

Aleksandar Hemon (born September 9, 1964) is a Bosnian-American fiction writer. He is the winner of a MacArthur Foundation grant. He has written four acclaimed books: Love and Obstacles: Stories (New York: Riverhead Books, 2009), The Lazarus Project: A Novel (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Awards, and was named as a New York Times Notable Book and New York magazine’s No. 1 Book of the Year; Nowhere Man (New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2002), also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and The Question of Bruno: Stories (New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2000). 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.

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.New York Times story: "Aleksandar Hemon’s Twice-Told Tales: Bosnian, Displaced in America," All of his stories deal in some way with the Yugoslav wars, Bosnia, or Chicago, but they vary substantially in genre.


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.

In May 2008, Hemon released The Lazarus Project, which featured photographs by Hemon’s childhood friend, photographer Velibor Božović. The novel was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award.

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 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 will be released in 2013.

Short fiction
  • "The Liar", collected in The Book of Other People (Zadie Smith, editor)


  • 2012 United States Artists Fellow award.
  • 2012 National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism, for "The Aquarium"
  • 2011 PEN/W.G. Sebald Award
  • 2009 National Magazine Award for Fiction, for The New Yorker
  • 2009 St. Francis College Literary Prize
  • 2008 National Book Award, finalist, for The Lazarus Project
  • 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award, finalist, for The Lazarus Project
  • 2004 MacArthur Fellows Program from the MacArthur Foundation
  • 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship
  • 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award, finalist, for Nowhere Man
  • 2001 John C. Zacharis First Book Award, for Ploughshares


Hemon was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, then Yugoslavia, to a father of partial Ukrainian and Bosnian descent and a Bosnian mother. 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.

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 published his first story in English, "The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders" in Triquarterly in 1995, followed "The Sorge Spy Ring," also in Triquarterly in 1996 and "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 lives with his second wife, Teri Boyd, and their daughters Ella and Esther in Chicago. 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.