I normally write on images, but Aleksandar Hemon’s new novel The Lazarus Project entwines enough with photography to belong here. It follows a Bosnian writer and a war photographer through Ukraine and Moldova, one researching a book, the other acting cool and telling stories. It’s complex and hilarious. Hemon knows my language better than I do, enough to wipe Everything Is Illuminated from my memory, to my relief.
But the images, photographs, come at the beginning of every chapter. Hemon collaborated with Velibor Bozovic, who shot them on a journey with Hemon mirroring the book’s fiction. They’re poorly printed, but look great on Hemon’s website, where an interactive display shows dozens of them along with snippets of Hemon’s writing. I got lost in it for a while before reading the book.
And in the book, the snippets are usually funny, not as portentious as they seem with the photos. They remind me of my friend Fedja, who used to regale me with Montenegrin jokes of such power that we all laughed before he explained the stereotypes. In the book, all Rora’s jokes remind me of his best. Especialy the one on page 154, with its more immediate punchline.