NABOKV-L post 0006883, Mon, 7 Oct 2002 10:16:27 -0700

Dic. of Literary Bio; Transpapernt Things in classroom; Alesandar

----- Original Message -----
From: "Matthew Beedham" <beedhamm@MALA.BC.CA>

> Before I get to my message, I noticed that you were interested in hearing
> about what folks were working on, so I'll just briefly say that I have a
> to compile a documentary volume on VN for the Dictionary of Literary
> Biography (Gale). So I'm in the process of chasing down the appropriate
> photos to go along with important bits of writing about VN. I'm to have
> job finished by next summer.
> I'm also teaching _Transparent Things_ in a second-year English course.
> My students are finding it a challenge.
> I've enjoyed being on the list very much. Please keep up the good work.
> As for my message, it should read as follows:
> Hello all, some of you might be interested in the comparison made to VN in
> a review of Aleksandar Hemon's _Nowhere Man_, which is in this month's
> Esquire.
> Cheers,
> matthew
> ___
> Matthew Beedham
> University College Professor
> Department of English
> Malaspina University-College
> Nanaimo, B.C.
> V9S 3C7
> Nowhere Man: The Pronek Fantasies
> By Aleksandar Hemon
> Now here's reason to get excited: a true work of art that's as vast and
mysterious as life itself. This is as great a compliment as I can think of.
Hemon, in just two books, and in just two years (if you haven't read The
Question of Bruno, do), has quickly become essential in the way that, say,
Nabokov is essential. The Nabokov comparison is not a facile one. The hero,
if we may call him that, of Nowhere Man, is "followed" by his doppelganger,
his shadow, his shade-a favorite Nabokovian theme. This character is Jozef
Pronek, a young, itinerant Bosnian who "has the ability to respond and speak
to the world." In each story, Pronek appears and reappears in different
phases of life, and in different guises. There is Pronek as a baby ("during
a diaper change, he peed in a perfect arc on an electric heater,
discontinuing the arc just in time not to get electrocuted, the piss
evaporating like an unfinished dream"); Pronek as a teenager, one who would
have been a punk (the name of his high school band: Jozef Pronek and the
Dead Souls) if he weren't so decent (the band plays Beatles covers); Pronek
as a young man in wrecked Sarajevo, in Kiev, and speaking wobbly English in
Chicago. Are these stories scenes from the same life? We believe so, and we
think we know what Hemon is up to here, until the title story, the last
piece in the book, when the device unravels and, like a Zen koan, becomes
more elusive the more you think about it. This tender, devastating book is
evidence indeed that Hemon is a writer of rare artistry and depth.