The Lazarus Project
In two collections of stories, The Question of Bruno and the NBCC-finalist Nowhere Man, Aleksandar Hemon has earned unmatched literary acclaim and a reputation as one of the English language’s most original and moving wordsmiths. In The Lazarus Project, Hemon has turned these talents to an embracing novel that intertwines haunting historical atmosphere and detail with sharp and shimmering—sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking—contemporary storytelling.
On March 2, 1908, nineteen-year-old Lazarus Averbuch, a recent Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe to Chicago, knocked on the front door of the house of George Shippy, the chief of Chicago police. When Shippy came to the door, Averbuch offered him what he said was an important letter. Instead of taking the letter, Shippy shot Averbuch twice, killing him. When Shippy released a statement casting Averbuch as a would-be anarchist assassin and agent of foreign political operatives, he all but set off a city and a country already simmering with ethnic and political tensions.
Now, in the twenty-first century, a young writer in Chicago, Brik, also from Eastern Europe, becomes obsessed with Lazarus’s story—what really happened, and why? In order to understand Averbuch, Brik and his friend Rora—who overflows with stories of his life as a Sarajevo war photographer—retrace Averbuch’s path across Eastern Europe, through a history of pogroms and poverty, and through a present-day landscape of cheap mafiosi and cheaper prostitutes. The stories of Averbuch and Brik become inextricably entwined, augmented by the photographs that Rora takes on their journey, creating a truly original, provocative, and entertaining novel that will confirm Hemon once and for all as one of the most dynamic and essential literary voices of our time.
The Barnes & Noble Review
The Lazarus who lends his name to the title of Aleksandar Hemon s third work of fiction was killed as a young man and mourned by his sister. And yes, this Lazarus did sort of rise weeks after his death (in a gruesome sense) and maintained an afterlife a century later as the inspiration for this novel. But don t expect reverence or piety. Narrated by an avowed atheist who refers to a certain historical figure as “Mr. Christ” and “the crucified gymnast,” Hemon delivers a fractured, furiously comic tale about the capacity for xenophobia to resurrect itself across multiple continents throughout the 20th century by people who believe they have divine permission to do so.