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The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon

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Published on Mar 5, 2009

www.aleksandarhemon.com

"Incandescent. When your eyes close, the power of this novel, of Hemon's colossal talent, remains."
-Junot Diaz

"An extraordinary writer: one who seems not simply gifted but necessary."
-The New York Times

On March 2, 1908, 19-year-old Lazarus Averbuch, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe to Chicago, knocked on the front door of the house of George Shippy, the chief of Chicago police, for reasons lost to history. When Shippy came to the door, Averbuch offered him what he said was an important letter for him. But instead of taking the letter, Shippy shot Averbuch twice, killing him.

When Shippy released a statement casting the foreigner Averbuch as an anarchist who had intended to assassinate him, America was ready to agree. It was a time when Chicago was still recovering from the Haymarket riots; anarchism and, especially, foreign-tongued immigrants were the big scare of mainstream America. A new wave of xenophobia was already sweeping through Chicago and the rest of the country when the Averbuch shooting set off a tumult that would involve Emma Goldman, marches in the streets, and a rash of scare headlines from coast-to-coast.

Now, in the twenty-first century, a young writer in Chicago, Brik, also from Eastern Europe, becomes obsessed with Lazarus's story - what really happened, and why? In order to understand Lazarus, Brik and his friend Rora - who overflows with stories of his life as a Sarajevo war photographer - retrace Lazarus's path backward across Eastern Europe, through a history of pogroms and poverty, and through a present day of cheap mafiosi and cheaper prostitutes. The stories of Lazarus and Brik become inextricable entwined, augmented by the photographs that Rora takes on their journey, creating a truly original, provocative, and entertaining novel that will confirm Hemon once and for all as one of the most dynamic and essential literary voices of our time.

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