Reviews in 200 Words

The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon

In Novel on December 26, 2009 at 2:51 am


This is the story of two men, and really, the story of all men. In 1908, Lazarus Averbuch, a Jewish immigrant to Chicago, is killed by the police chief in the name of feared anarchy. A century later, Vladimir Brik, manages to get a grant to investigate what really happened to Lazarus–not surprisingly, a very different story from the one that went down in history. Brik and his photographer friend, Rora, travel through Europe learning as much about themselves as they do about turn-of-the-century anti-semitism. Hemon jumps back and forth between these two stories and proves that it’s pretty easy to scold generic stereotyping and categorizing, but that hatred is always personal. The parallels between the crack-down on “anarchist assassins” in 1908 and the war on terrorism today are clear, but in a way that makes the repetitive nature of history crushing. Hate and fear author some of the most explicit lies ever to go down; and somehow they become known as “truth.” What really changes in a hundred years? Sometimes it seems like very little. Hemon understands that lies silence the people: “The voices of the deep, the cries of human misery and distress are silenced by the formula saying ‘we are all free and equal in this country.'”

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