About this title:
Aleksandar Hemon, author of The Question of Bruno, one of the most celebrated debuts in recent American fiction, returns with the mind- and language-bending adventures of his endearing protagonist Jozef Pronek.
This is what we know about Jozef Pronek: He is a young man from Sarajevo who left to visit the United States in 1992, just in time to watch war break out at home on TV. Stranded in the relative comfort of Chicago, he proves himself a charming and frankly perceptive observer of – and participant in – American life. With Nowhere Man, Pronek, accidental urban nomad, gets his own book.
Aleksandar Hemon lovingly crafts Pronek into a character who is sure to become an enduring literary icon. From the grand causes of his adolescence – principally, fighting to change the face of rock and roll and, hilariously, struggling to lose his virginity – up through a fleeting encounter with George Bush (the first) in Kiev, to enrollment in a Chicago ESL class and the glorious adventures of minimum-wage living, Pronek’s experiences are at once touchingly familiar and bracingly out-of-the-ordinary.
But the story of his life is not so simple as a series of global adventures. Pronek is continually haunted by an unseen observer, his movements chronicled by narrators with dubious motives–all of which culminates in a final episode that upends many of our assumptions about Pronek’s identity, while illustrating precisely what it means to be a Nowhere Man.
With all the literary verve of The Question of Bruno, but with an engrossing narrative, engaging warmth, and refreshing humor, Nowhere Man brings to life a protagonist whose very way of looking at and living in the world provokes an exhilarating sense of seeing everything new again. And all the while, the inspired freshness of the prose reminds the reader why Aleksandar Hemon earned such extraordinary recognition after just one book.
Following his critically acclaimed short story collection, The Question of Bruno, Aleksandar Hemon's debut novel Nowhere Man confirms that an important new voice has arrived. Unlike other Eastern European coming-of-age novels, Nowhere Man bucks chronological order, spanning the 1990s and sometimes reading like a memoir. Jozef Pronek, who grew up dreaming of hitting it big with his Beatles cover band, wanders through his adopted Chicago while the Bosnia conflict rages on, working as a process server and for Greenpeace, where he meets his girlfriend, Rachel. Jozef spends time in Kiev with American graduate students, such as the uncannily depicted Will, "blonde and suburbanly ... [as if his] family procreated by fission," and Vivian, "pale and in need of a carrot or something." He rooms with Victor Plavchuk, a conflicted doctoral student in literature who develops a crush on Jozef (and who is reminiscent of a subdued Charles Kinbote from Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire). Jozef is sublimely complex, embodying the listlessness and frank practicality of expatriates whose homeland is being shredded by violent conflict. Jozef wonders, "Why couldn't he be more than one person? Why was he stuck in the middle of himself, hungry and tired?" while a woman "[keeps] her hands in the pockets of her formerly blue jacket, as if despair were a marble in her pocket." Hemon's wit is also present: "The only thing that distinguished Pronek in school was that he never, ever volunteered to do anything." Nowhere Man is a somber, saddening, yet vibrant and warm debut novel. --Michael Ferch
From the Back Cover:
PRAISE FOR ALEKSANDAR HEMON AND THE QUESTION OF BRUNO
"So good as to make the reader feel certain of having discovered...an extraordinary writer: one who seems not simply gifted but necessary."
--New York Times Book Review
"The man is a maestro, a conjurer, a channeler of universes... as vivid a prose as you will find this year."
"Aleksandar Hemon is a striking new voice in fiction."
"Before the comparisons to Nabokov and Conrad start coming (and odds are they'll come fast and furious), know this: Hemon is an original voice, and he has imagination and talent all his own."
--Entertainment Weekly (Editors Choice, Grade 'A')
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