Aleksandar Hemon

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Aleksandar Hemon
Hemon in 2017
Hemon in 2017
Born (1964-09-09) September 9, 1964 (age 59)
Sarajevo, SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, SFR Yugoslavia
Alma materUniversity of Sarajevo, Northwestern University
Literary movementPostmodernism

Aleksandar Hemon (Serbian Cyrillic: Александар Xeмoн; born September 9, 1964) is a Bosnian-American author, essayist, critic, television writer, and screenwriter. He is best known for the novels Nowhere Man (2002) and The Lazarus Project (2008), and his scriptwriting as a co-writer of The Matrix Resurrections (2021).

He frequently publishes in The New Yorker and has also written for Esquire, The Paris Review, the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, and the Sarajevo magazine BH Dani.

Hemon is also a musician, distributing his Electronica work under the pseudonym "Cielo Hemon."[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Hemon was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, then Yugoslavia, to a father of partial Ukrainian descent and a Bosnian Serb mother.[3] Hemon's great-grandfather, Teodor Hemon, came to Bosnia from Western Ukraine prior to World War I, when both countries were a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


Hemon graduated from the University of Sarajevo and was a published writer in former Yugoslavia by the time he was 26.[4]

Since 1992 he has lived in the United States, where he found himself as a tourist and became stranded at the outbreak of the war in Bosnia. In the U.S. he worked as a Greenpeace canvasser, sandwich assembly-line worker, bike messenger, graduate student in English literature, bookstore salesperson, and ESL teacher. He earned his master's degree from Northwestern University in 1996.

He was awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant in 2004.

He published his first story in English, "The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders" in Triquarterly in 1995, followed by "The Sorge Spy Ring," also in Triquarterly in 1996, "A Coin" in Chicago Review in 1997, "Islands" in Ploughshares in 1998, and eventually "Blind Jozef Pronek" in The New Yorker in 1999. His work also eventually appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. Hemon also has a bi-weekly column, written and published in Bosnian, called "Hemonwood" in the Sarajevo-based magazine, BH Dani (BH Days).

Hemon is currently a professor of creative writing at Princeton University,[5] where he lives with his second wife, Teri Boyd, and their daughters Ella and Esther. The couple's second child, 1-year-old daughter Isabel, died of complications associated with a brain tumor in November 2010. Hemon published an essay, "The Aquarium," about Isabel's death in the June 13/20, 2011 issue of The New Yorker.

Hemon grew up near the Grbavica Stadium, and he is a supporter of the Željo, as the Sarajevo based football club FK Željezničar is affectionately called, with a membership.[6] He is also a supporter of Liverpool Football Club.


In 2000 Hemon published his first book, The Question of Bruno, which included short stories and a novella.

His second book, Nowhere Man, followed in 2002. Variously referred to as a novel and as a collection of linked stories, Nowhere Man concerns Jozef Pronek, a character who earlier appeared in one of the stories in The Question of Bruno. It was a finalist for the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award.

In June 2006, Exchange of Pleasant Words and A Coin were published by Picador.[7]

On 1 May 2008, Hemon released The Lazarus Project, inspired by the story of Lazarus Averbuch, which featured photographs by Hemon's childhood friend, photographer Velibor Božović. The novel was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award, and was named as a "New York Times Notable Book" and New York magazine's No. 1 Book of the Year.[8]

In May 2009, Hemon released a collection of stories, Love and Obstacles, which were largely written at the same time as he wrote The Lazarus Project.

In 2011, Hemon was awarded the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award chosen by the judges Jill Ciment, Salvatore Scibona, and Gary Shteyngart.

Hemon's first nonfiction book, The Book of My Lives, was released in 2013.

Hemon's novel The Making of Zombie Wars was released in 2015.[9]

He published his second work of non-fiction, My Parents: An Introduction, in 2019.

On August 20, 2019, it was announced that Hemon would co-write the script for The Matrix Resurrections alongside David Mitchell and Lana Wachowski. The film was released on December 22, 2021.[10][11]

His latest novel The World and All That it Holds was published on February 2, 2023. It was the winner of the 2023 Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine, which honors the best American novel translated into French and published in France. (The book was published in France as Un monde de ciel et de terre by Calmann-Lévy, translated by Michèle Albaret-Maatsch.)[12]


Perhaps the esteemed Nobel Committee is so invested in the preservation of Western civilization that to it a page of Mr. Handke is worth a thousand Muslim lives. (...) For them, genocide comes and goes, but literature is forever.

— A. Hemon, The New York Times[13]

In October 2019, Hemon joined many intellectuals in an international public outcry in response to the decision of the Nobel Committee to award Peter Handke a Nobel Prize in literature earlier that month (citing Handke's support of the late Slobodan Milošević and Bosnian genocide denial). Hemon wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times, published in the October 15 issue, criticizing the Nobel committee for its decision.[13]

TV and film[edit]

While in the United States, Aleksandar Hemon started working as a screenwriter, and collaborated with Lana Wachowski (the Wachowskis) and David Mitchell as co-writer on the finale of the TV show Sense8 and the film The Matrix Resurrections.[14][15][16]

Critical reception[edit]

As an accomplished fiction writer who learned English as an adult, Hemon has some similarities to Joseph Conrad, which he acknowledges through allusion in The Question of Bruno, though he is most frequently compared to Vladimir Nabokov.[17] All of his stories deal in some way with the Yugoslav Wars, Bosnia, or Chicago, but they vary substantially in genre.[citation needed]


Selected bibliography[edit]

  • 2002 Nowhere Man, ISBN 9780330393508, OCLC 698889361
  • 2008 The Lazarus Project, ISBN 9781440637490, OCLC 883331173
  • 2015 The Making of Zombie Wars, ISBN 9780374203412, OCLC 953255017
  • 2023 The World and All That It Holds, ISBN 9780374287702, OCLC 1344332737
Short story collections
Short fiction
  • 2010 Best European Fiction 2010
  • 2010 Best European Fiction 2011
  • 2011 Best European Fiction 2012
  • 2012 Best European Fiction 2013


  1. ^ Hemon, Aleksandar (January 19, 2023). "By The Book: Aleksandar Hemon". The New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved January 22, 2023.
  2. ^ Hemon, Cielo. Bandcamp Retrieved January 22, 2023. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "Aleksandar Hemon u Leksikonu" (in Croatian). August 31, 2007. Archived from the original on December 17, 2009. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  4. ^ 17th Prague Writer's Festival page: "Aleksandar Hemon," Archived June 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Aleksandar Hemon". Lewis Center for the Arts. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  6. ^ "Željovci: Aleksandar Hemon". (in Bosnian and English). March 29, 2016. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  7. ^ Hemon, Aleksandar (2006). Exchange of Pleasant Words: And, A Coin. Picador. ISBN 978-0-330-44581-8.
  8. ^ "2008 National Book Awards Winners and Finalists, The National Book Foundation". Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  9. ^ Gilbert, David (June 2, 2015). "'The Making of Zombie Wars,' by Aleksandar Hemon". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  10. ^ Kroll, Justin (August 20, 2019). "'Matrix 4' Officially a Go With Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Lana Wachowski (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved August 27, 2021.
  11. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (October 6, 2020). "'The Batman' Flies To 2022 Post 'Dune' Drift, 'Matrix 4' Moves Up To Christmas 2021, 'Shazam! 2' Zaps To 2023 & More WB Changes – Update". Deadline. Retrieved August 27, 2021.
  12. ^ Chevilly, Philippe (November 10, 2023). "Aleksandar Hemon, Grand prix de littérature américaine". Les Echos (in French). Retrieved March 30, 2024.
  13. ^ a b Hemon, Aleksandar (October 15, 2019). "Opinion - 'The Bob Dylan of Genocide Apologists'". The New York Times. Retrieved May 17, 2020. Perhaps the esteemed Nobel Committee is so invested in the preservation of Western civilization that to it a page of Mr. Handke is worth a thousand Muslim lives. Or it could be that in the rarefied chambers in Stockholm, Mr. Handke's anxious goalie is far more real than a woman from Srebrenica whose family was eradicated in the massacre. The choice of Mr. Handke implies a concept of literature safe from the infelicities of history and actualities of human life and death. War and genocide, Milosevic and Srebrenica, the value of the writer's words and actions at this moment in history, might be of interest to the unsophisticated plebs once subjected to murder and displacement, but not to those who can appreciate 'linguistic ingenuity' that 'has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.' For them, genocide comes and goes, but literature is forever.
  14. ^ "'Sense8': Production begins on Netflix special". Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  15. ^ Hemon, Aleksandar (September 27, 2017). "The Transformative Experience of Writing for "Sense8"". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  16. ^ Kroll, Justin (August 20, 2019). "'Matrix 4' Officially a Go With Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Lana Wachowski". Variety. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  17. ^ Rohter, Larry (May 15, 2009). "Twice-Told Tales: Displaced in America". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  18. ^ Kirsten Reach (January 14, 2014). "NBCC finalists announced". Melville House Publishing. Archived from the original on January 8, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  19. ^ "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. January 14, 2014. Archived from the original on January 15, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  20. ^ United States Artists Official Website Archived October 21, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "American Society of Magazine Editors – National Magazine Awards 2012 Finalists Announced". April 3, 2012. Archived from the original on June 25, 2012. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  22. ^ Stacey Mickelbart (August 11, 2011). "The 2011 PEN Honorees in The New Yorker". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 11, 2012.

External links[edit]