Just read, The Book of My Lives, Aleksandar Hemon



I’d seen great reviews for Aleksandar Hemon’s recent book and was thrilled that my thoughtful friend gave it to me for my birthday a few months back. Our background is similar to Hemon’s and I’ve been aware of him as an author but never read any of his books before. I’d been itching to read this book though, I knew I would love it from the reviews but I also wanted to be able to read it properly – something I couldn’t really do while studying. So it sat, in the periphery of my field of vision during April and most of May. ‘Finishing the essay’ became major priority, taking over my life while busy work added to intensity and high stress levels. The essay was sent off last week, work calmed down somewhat and yet I felt that I couldn’t just pick up the Hemon book straight away. So I read a couple of other short fiction books first and then started on The Book of My Lives yesterday morning, finished it earlier today. It was tough. As I was reading it on the bus returning from work yesterday, I stopped for a moment and observed the effect it was having on me: my hands gripped the book while at the same time, my body was physically trying to distance itself from it, forming an oddly concave shape. His story is deeply personal yet the experience of being displaced because of war and trying to create a space – internal and external, for yourself to reconcile with the displacement is shared by many. It is a difficult feeling to vocalise and Hemon does it so well. I was about to use the word ‘beautifully’ but displacement due to war is never something beautiful. The book is very funny in places and quite harrowing in others, especially the last part about the death of his infant daughter. My friend said she wouldn’t be able to read it because of the last part, which is understandable. It is a very powerful book and Hemon really does have a way with words. I’m glad I managed to control my impatience and read it properly without distractions. Think I’m going to look up some of his other books too.


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