Aleksandar Hemon, who collected a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003 and MacArthur “genius grant” in 2004, visited Iowa City in April 2013 to give a reading during the Mission Creek Festival. His reading centered on his first book of nonfiction, The Book of My Lives. This On the Fly interview was recorded during his visit.
Hemon discusses readers’ interest in whether he has different writing personalities in English and his native Bosnian. “I don’t,” he says. “It’s the same mind.” He writes both fiction and nonfiction, and he considers the difference between the two: “In Bosnian…there are no words that are equivalent to ‘fiction’ and ‘nonfiction.’ The distinction does not exist in the vocabulary when talking about literature.” He also discusses the necessity of soccer in his life. “If I don’t play soccer,” he says, “you don’t want to be around me.” He considers the ethical demands on writers and then reads from his work to close the interview.
Hemon is the author of The Lazarus Project, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. He has also written three short story collections, including The Question of Bruno, Nowhere Man (also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Love and Obstacles, which garnered the St. Francis College Literary Prize. Hemon was born in Sarajevo. The city came under siege while he was visiting Chicago in 1992, preventing his return home and he has lived in the United States since then.
His latest novel is The Making of Zombie Wars.