NABOKV-L post 0018329, Sat, 16 May 2009 09:35:28 -0400

Twice-Told Tales: Displaced in America ...

Twice-Told Tales: Displaced in America

Published: May 15, 2009

CHICAGO — Aleksandar Hemon returned from Sarajevo, his birthplace, to his home here last week in a contented mood. He and his wife, Teri, had taken their 19-month-old daughter, Ella, there for the first time, partly to celebrate his two most recent books, a novel and a short-story collection, both written in English and newly translated into Bosnian, his native tongue.

[ ... ]

Partly because of his émigré origins and Slavic background — his father, an engineer, is of Ukrainian descent and his mother, an accountant, is Serbian — Mr. Hemon is often compared to Vladimir Nabokov. He readily acknowledges the influence, saying that he considers “Lolita” “the greatest American novel” and Nabokov a master stylist.

But in a more general way, Mr. Hemon shows a preference for writers whose work, like Nabokov’s in both Russian and English, addresses and conveys a sense of displacement. Asked to list some favorites, he immediately named Bruno Schulz, Danilo Kis, Franz Kafka and Isaac Babel.

“It’s the complicated situation, and then the complicated language that comes with that,” he said. “That complication always finds somehow a reflection in language.”

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