Literary Criticism and Significance

The Lazarus Project is Aleksandar Hemon’s second novel. It was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. His first novel, Nowhere Man, was selected as a National Book Critics Circle finalist in 2002. Hemon is primarily a short story writer. The Question of Bruno is a collection of short stories he published in 2000 that won several literary awards and was published in eighteen countries. He has recently published another collection of short stories (2009) titled Love and Obstacles.

Much of Hemon’s work is semi-autobiographical. His characters, like himself, are Bosnian immigrants. Hemon came to America in 1992 at the invitation of the United States Information Agency on a cultural exchange, intending to stay for only a few months. While he was in Chicago, war broke out in Bosnia and he was forced to remain in the United States. Hemon perfected his English, he says, by working for Greenpeace for two and a half years and by reading famous authors, notably Vladimir Nabokov, to whom he is often compared. He wrote his first story in English in 1995 and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003 and a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation in 2004.

Most of the criticism regarding The Lazarus Project is positive. Lisa Montanarelli of the California Literary Review calls the writing “compelling, vivid and sometimes graphic” and “the emotional ride exhilarating." Cathleen Schine of The New York Times Book Review says that the novel is “remarkable, and remarkably entertaining,” full of “humor and full of jokes” but at the same time, “inexpressibly sad." Critic David Leavitt of The Washington Post refers to the novel as “masterful,” and Michael Pinker in The Review of Contemporary...

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