Accepted paper:

Narratives of homecoming in Aleksandar Hemon's novels


Dagmar Gramshammer-Hohl (University of Graz)

Paper short abstract:

This paper highlights narratives of homecoming that are developed in the novels of Bosnian-American writer Aleksandar Hemon. Literary analysis brings to the fore how Hemon's texts negotiate and subvert dominant models of narrating belonging, longing, and return.

Paper long abstract:

This paper provides analyses of two works of fiction by the Bosnian writer Aleksandar Hemon, who left Sarajevo in 1992 and has lived in the U.S. ever since. Our main focus will be on the novels Nowhere Man and The Lazarus Project, both written in English, both abounding with autobiographical references, and both developing a disconcerting play on identities, notions of home, and homecoming. We will argue that Hemon's novels are structured around the roots/routes dichotomy (Clifford) that calls into question the widespread notion of homecoming and return as helping to restore one's "true" identity. The protagonists' journeys back to their roots retrace their ways of having become who they are now; however, there is no way back to any past state. Hemon's texts refer to various models of imagining and narrating loss, longing, and return - among others, to representations of the exilic experience by authors of the Russian diaspora. However, whereas in common imaginings of homecoming the hero usually retrieves the comfort of the secure and familiar and is reassured of his identity, Hemon's protagonists struggle for the safety of a home and a clear notion of who they are and of where they belong without ever finding them. The multifaceted, ever-changing "I" turns out to be the novels' main character. Eventually, it finds its identity not in its roots, in any defined place of origin, but en route - in its never-ending project of searching for who it is.

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Narratives/counter-narratives of homecoming