IN LATE 1991 Aleksandar Hemon was at his family’s mountain cabin above Sarajevo, immersed in literature, when the Bosnian Serb nationalist and eventual war criminal Radovan Karadzic appeared on television. When Mr Karadzic prophesied the “annihilation” of Bosnia’s Muslims, Mr Hemon writes in a new book of essays, it surpassed anything his then 27-year-old “humanist imagination” could conceive.
Grappling with the coexistence of humanism and genocide has been the Bosnian writer’s business ever since. A literary fellowship took Mr Hemon to Chicago, where he was stranded when the siege of Sarajevo began. He began producing works of fiction that circle relentlessly around the traumas of civil war and exile. “The Lazarus Project” was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2008. This new collection examines, in non-fictional form, the defining rupture of his life.