NABOKV-L post 0006835, Mon, 23 Sep 2002 09:32:52 -0700

Fw: by re-reading the works of Nabokov and . Aleksandar Hemon

----- Original Message -----
From: Sandy P. Klein
To:(5 lines) -------------------

September 22, 2002
Immigrant author values Chicago's 'outsider' status
By Kristin Koberdanz

Published September 22, 2002

Aleksandar Hemon cracks a rare smile when asked about his T-shirt, which bears the name of rock band Wilco's new album. "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had the cover of a Chicago building; that's what made me buy it." After a moment's pause, he says, "I like that they're loyal to Chicago."

Hemon, too, is fiercely devoted to his adopted home, although he didn't originally intend to live here. Like his protagonist, Jozef Pronek, in "Nowhere Man," he arrived here in winter 1992 to visit a friend and couldn't leave because war had broken out in his hometown of Sarajevo, Bosnia (then part of Yugoslavia). He filed for political asylum and rented a drab Edgewater apartment with nothing but a couple of hundred dollars, two suitcases and a roommate who, Hemon says, "had an ambition! to be an FBI agent mainly so he could handcuff people."

Despite working a series of odd jobs, sleeping on a hardwood floor and agonizing over his family in Bosnia, the former journalist says he grew to love the city. He also learned how to string sentences together in English by re-reading the works of Nabokov and Chekhov. Hemon began writing his own stories in an effort to capture the immigrant's alienation that he viewed with sorrow and sardonic wit. His story collection, "The Question of Bruno," was published to critical acclaim in 2000.

Hemon, "Sasha" to his friends, is a rabid soccer player and still lives in Edgewater, but now with his Chicago-born wife of four years. The 38-year-old author says people--literary agents, editors, writers--ask him all the time why he doesn't move to New York, where most publishers are located.

"That question upsets me," he says. "Why would I go to New York? This i! s where I live. My wife is here, the people I play soccer with are here--there would be major trauma.

"It's kind of self-righteous stubbornness. Chicago comes up as outside New York, and I would rather speak to outsiders."

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