The Lazarus Project

Alek­san­dar Hemon

  • Review
By – January 30, 2012

Hemon’s book tells two inter­est­ing sto­ries in alter­nat­ing chap­ters. One is based on a true event that took place on March 2, 1908 when Lazarus Aver­bach, a young Jew­ish immi­grant from East­ern Europe, knocked on the door of Chica­go police chief George Shippy’s home to give him a let­ter and was shot dead. The police cov­ered up this anti-Semit­ic act as a defense against the so-called anar­chist assas­sin. The anar­chists of the time made Lazarus out to be a mar­tyr for their cause. Lazarus’ sis­ter Olga was left won­der­ing who her broth­er real­ly was and we are left with no answer.

The oth­er tale is about Brik, a young writer from Bosnia who was, like our author, Hemon, born in Sara­je­vo. Brik, who is out of work, is sup­port­ed by his Amer­i­can physi­cian wife. He is obsessed with Lazarus and takes his mys­te­ri­ous pho­tog­ra­ph­er friend Rora through Europe to trace Lazarus’ path. Brik has won a Susie” grant to write and sets out to prove him­self. Rora’s haunt­ing black and white pho­tos pre­cede each chap­ter. The book blends fact and fic­tion in a way that makes it dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish between the two. Hemon’s use of lan­guage is fas­ci­nat­ing and his descrip­tions are raunchy and humor­ous in the present-day chap­ters. The tale of Lazarus’ fate is writ­ten beau­ti­ful­ly while con­vey­ing Olga’s state of mis­ery and tension.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

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