Friday, February 21, 2014

The Book of Many Lives

C.D. Hermelin, on behalf of the School of Writing at The New School and the NBCC, interviewed Aleksandar Hemon, via email, about his book The Book of My Lives (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), which is among the final five selections, in the category of Autobiography, for the 2013 NBCC awards.
CDH: At the end of the section titled "Life During Wartime," you write: "The war had arrived and now we were all waiting to see who would live, who would kill, and who would die." This sentence struck me, as living and dying are separated from those "who would kill." Why separate those who kill from those who go about living and dying?
AH: Well, I would think that living/dying is what every human being does, while killing is a little more exclusive, even in a war. But there is also a Bosnian expression, roughly translatable as: "Let’s see who lives and who dies," used when someone is overly optimistic or confident in predicting the future. The sentence you quoted engages the idea that the distribution of the future depends on the distribution of life and death, as well as on the distributors of death.
CDH: In The Book of My Lives you make special mention that your professor's essay-writing course was the only writing course you've ever taken. Did the rest of your development as a writer take place through your own experiments with writing—and are there any blank spots that you feel like an education could fill? Can a writer be over-educated in writing itself?