Nowhere Man: The Pronek Fantasies by Aleksandar Hemon - review by Christopher Hart

Christopher Hart

Existence of an Exile

Nowhere Man: The Pronek Fantasies


Picador 242pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

ALEKSANDAR HEMON'S FIRST work, a collection of stories entitled The Question of Bruno, was one of the most extraordinary and auspicious debuts of recent times. Having spoken Enghsh for only six years, since hls fight fkom Bosnia, Hemon appeared to have mastered his new language as well as Nabokov or Conrad. In his second work, Nowhere Man, a full-length novel, Hemon's other skills are tested - above all, his abibility to sustain a story.

Nowhere Man, as picaresque and formless as a Smollett novel, follows the rambling adventures and rnisadventures of a young Bosnian 6migrC called Josef Pronek. He stumbles in bewilderment around the USA, particularly Chicago, trying to be a fund-raiser for Greenpeace, or eking out a living fi-om teachmg. All the time there remains a vast gulf of misunderstanding between himself and the comfortable, fi-iendly natives of America, who have no sense whatsoever of the things his homeland has endured. The banality of Pronek's experiences of Western life are punctuated by remembered horrors. In the midst of conversation, Pronek suddenly and unwillingly recalls the day his mother was caught in the bombing of a street market in Sarajevo, and how she 'wandered back, dazed, and trudged through the bloody pulp,

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