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2008 Literary Festival to close with Aleksandar Hemon

Analise Lipari | Monday, November 17, 2008

In a year that has included artists ranging from a magazine journalist to the writer of a genre-defying novel, Bosnian-Herzegovinian journalist and fiction writer Aleksandar Hemon will close the 42nd Literary Festival with three different events today.

Hemon’s work in English began in 1995, when he first published articles in a variety of English-language magazines, including “The Paris Review” and “The New Yorker.” His first book, the critically acclaimed story collection “The Question of Bruno,” was published in 2000. It was followed two years later by a novel, “Nowhere Man.” In subsequent years, Hemon has become an esteemed favorite of literary critics, receiving a MacArthur “genius” grant four years ago.

Currently, Hemon is riding the critical waves of his latest release, a novel entitled “The Lazarus Project.” The novel, a finalist for the National book Award, describes the life of Lazarus Averbuch, an eastern European immigrant who was shot by the Chicago police in 1908. Averbuch’s narrative is contrasted in the novel with a present-day writer named Brik who is researching his life.

“What I like about literature are the transformative possibilities,” Hemon told the Los Angeles Times in a May 25 interview. “The great books teach you how to read them. Joyce, Sebald – not that I count myself in that group – but those writers cause you to have to drop your habits and expectations and give yourself to the book.”

The Literary Festival is presented by Student Union Board (SUB) and the University’s Creative Writing Program. In its more than four decades of history, the festival has attracted its fair share of famous authors, including McSweeney’s engineer Dave Eggars (“A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”) and the late Norman Mailer.

In keeping with changes made for last year’s festival, SUB has staggered the invited authors over a period of several weeks. Hemon is the last of this year’s four writers, a group whose variety has hallmarked the festival’s events.

On Nov. 6 the Observer reported that Ben Nugent was the first of the Festival’s invited authors to appear on campus on Nov. 4. Nugent is a journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in Time, GQ and New York Times magazine, among others. His best-known book, “American Nerd: The Story of My People.”

Nugent told the Observer that “It’s a combo of memoir, history and cultural criticism. It has stories of my nerdy childhood and also a history of nerdy people.”

Nugent has also written a biography of late musician Elliott Smith.

The festival’s second writer, Galchen, is a Canadian-American author who currently teaches at Columbia University. Galchen received an M.D. from Mount Sinai before switching profession and sides of the brain; she later completed an M.F.A. at Columbia.

She has also been published in the New York Times and The New Yorker, among other publications.

Galchen is best known for her novel “Atmospheric Disturbances.” As of last month, the novel had been named as a finalist for several prizes, including the Governor General’s Award, a prestigious Canadian prize. Galchen spoke at Notre Dame on Nov. 6.

Marisa Silver, the third speaker, is an author, director and screenplay writer. While still in college, Silver directed her first film, “Old Enough,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1984 Sundance Film Festival. She has published several short stories in “The New Yorker,” as well as a short story collection, 2001’s “Babe in Paradise.” Silver’s most recent novel is “The God of War,” which was published this past spring. Silver spoke at Notre Dame on Nov. 12.