A native of Sarajevo, where he spends his adolescence trying to become Bosnia’s answer to John Lennon, Jozef Pronek comes to the United States in 1992—just in time to watch war break out in his country, but too early to be a genuine refugee. Indeed, Jozef’s typical answer to inquiries about his origins and ethnicity is, “I am complicated.”
And so he proves to be—not just to himself, but to the revolving series of shadowy but insightful narrators who chart his progress from Sarajevo to Chicago; from a hilarious encounter with the first President Bush to a somewhat more grave one with a heavily armed Serb whom he has been hired to serve with court papers. Moving, disquieting, and exhilarating in its virtuosity, Nowhere Man is the kaleidoscopic portrait of a magnetic young man stranded in America by the war in Bosnia.
Hemon's follow-up to his well-received debut, The Question of Bruno, follows Jozef Pronek, a young Sarajevan residing in the United States, and moves back and forth through time, memory, history and across continents. Perhaps the most pronounced and astonishing trait of the novel is the author's unflinching and impartial eye for detail. Early on, Hemon introduces the notion that to linger on the landmark moments of a person's life is to present only a small part of the greater narrative. Thus, seemingly inconsequential observations are vividly rendered, making the gritty world of Hemon's book that much more real, inescapable and hilarious. What emerges is a work of both fastidious depth and epic scope, spliced together from an assortment of perspectives. By turns warmly funny and incisively bitter, it showcases Hemon's cagey, defiant optimism in the face of a "woeful world."