After I graduated from University, I had no real career ambitions and was hired at a bookstore and although it was supposed to be temporary, I ended up working there for four years and up until the last year it wasn’t so bad. Anyway once a year the boss, who really wasn’t a reader, would invite certain workers to come into his office and choose a bunch of sample copies. Usually I would search for books i would like ( I managed to acquire a Kundera and a Sarah Waters this way) then I would just check the publisher and grab the book regardless and that’s how Hemon arrived into my hands and stayed on the shelf untouched for an extremely long time.
I know that this is a long back story but it’s a slightly weird one and it suits the plot of this book perfectly.
‘Nowhere Man’ is a fictional biography of the Bosnian immigrant Jozef Pronek. In the book we get snapshots of his childhood in Bosnia and his attempts to start a Beatles cover band (hence the title) , his university life in Kiev during the independence of The Ukraine and the various jobs he undertakes when in the U.S. Not to mention that Pronek’s spoken English, Like Alex Perchov from Safran Foer’s ‘Everything is Illuminated’, has a sort of warped quality to it which makes you smile.
The thing is that the book is told through different narrators so the tone changes in places and that is where I was slightly let down. Nowhere Man has parts of sheer brilliance and literally laugh out loud situations. The Kiev chapter and the Private Eye section are perfect in every way and a joy to read. I had tears coming down my eyes in these sections and they heightened my love of the book. On the other hand there were parts which dragged. The last parts of the novel are particularly dull and I did trudge through them a bit peeved off at the inconsistency.
Despite the fact that Jozef hails from Bosnia and emigrates to Chicago in 1992 – just before the conflict started, this is not a book about war and it’s effects on the human. Well at least it is not the main focus of the book. What the reader gets is a man who tries to use his peculiar English in a world that is just as crazy and mixed up as the one he left.
So is this book a must read. In a way it it. Hemon is a clever writer and knows how to be funny and Pronek is quite a literary character but on the other hand approach with a teensy bit of caution because the second half of the book is not quite as exhilarating as the first half.