Aleksandar Hemon's extraordinary life story is more than simply fodder for book publicists. It informs everything he has written, for his work is restlessly autobiographical, infused with the urgency of thinking through his life on paper.
In 1992, Hemon was a young Bosnian writer, just two years out of the University of Sarajevo and about to publish his first book, a collection of spare and modernist short stories. Then Sarajevo was surrounded by the Yugoslav National Army and the Bosnian War broke out. Hemon's book was never published. As he said later, "Stopping that was the best thing the war ever did."
Hemon was on a one-month tour of the United States when his city was besieged, and the visit turned him into an exile. He escaped the violence of the war but found himself estranged from his homeland and native language. He made Chicago his new home, applied for political asylum, and began to learn English. He completed a master's degree...