Vanessa V. Friedman
June 02, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Question of Bruno

Current Status
In Season
Aleksandar Hemon
Short Stories

We gave it an A

That eerie half-world in which small personal dramas play out against shattering current events is the territory of Aleksandar Hemon’s assured first short-story collection, The Question of Bruno — a debut all the more impressive since the author, a native of Sarajevo, only recently learned English. Before the comparisons to Nabokov and Conrad start coming, however (and odds are they’ll come fast and furious), know this: Hemon is an original voice, and he has an imagination and talent all his own. Whether he’s describing a boy who believes his father is a spy while telling the story of a real spy’s life in footnotes (”The Sorge Spy Ring”) imagining Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s last thouhgts (”Accordion”), or describing a man caught in the U.S. while war rages in his hometown in Eastern Europe in the novella-length title piece, his displaced characters have a talent for cultural observation that can be piercing. A

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