A moving masterpiece of family, identity and life under siege
When Aleksandar Hemon and Velibor Božovic became friends as teenagers in Sarajevo, it was, in Hemon’s words, “pretty clear that our friendship was for life, even if we could have no notion of what lay ahead of us.”
In the coming years, it became clear that their future was going to be entirely unlike anything they might have imagined. Their beloved city was ripped to shreds by ethnic violence, its citizens suffering the longest siege in the history of modern warfare. Hemon was trapped abroad, in Chicago, when the siege began, and unable to return home, he watched in despair, alone and helpless, as the war unfolded in headlines and TV dispatches. Božovic, meanwhile, was trapped in Sarajevo with his family. As the conflict accelerated, he was conscripted into the Bosnian Army-even as his father, who had served in the Yugoslav People’s Army since long before their country split apart, was being held in a Bosnian POW camp.
In his essay My Prisoner, Hemon tells Božovic’s story of life in Sarajevo during the siege. His account revolves around one particular incident in the middle of the war when Božovic was offered the chance to visit his father in the POW camp-though not, of course, without an onerous quid pro quo.
Almost twenty years later, in 2012, Hemon and Božovic are still friends for life. Hemon is now a writer in Chicago; Božovic is a photographer in Montreal. Hemon has traveled to Canada with his daughter to see his friend’s art installation, My Prisoner, about that wartime reunion with his father. In this special ebook edition, both versions of “My Prisoner” are presented together. The result is a unique and extraordinary literary and artistic experience.
Note: Hemon’s essay appears in the Picador paperback and ebook editions of The Book of My Lives. Božovic’s My Prisoner (2012) appears only in this enhanced ebook.
Aleksandar Hemon is the author of The Question of Bruno, Nowhere Man, The Lazarus Project, Love and Obstacles, and The Book of My Lives. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, the PEN/W. G. Sebald Award, and a 2012 USA Fellowship, and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives and plays in Chicago.
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