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December 1, 2009

SFC Literary Prize Winner Aleksandar Hemon Spends Day With Students & Reads From Love and Obstacles

St. Francis College Literary Prize Winner Aleksandar Hemon began his day long visit with the students, faculty and administrators of St. Francis College with a guest lecture and concluded with a reading of a short story from his award winning book, Love and Obstacles. (Watch the full Reading)

Hemon, who won the $50,000 prize for his collection of short stories, Love and Obstacles (Riverhead Books), first visited a English class taught by Professor John Lennon. Hemon, read from the story, The Bees, Part 1, then continued with an hour-long discussion on topics ranging from his life before coming to the United States, his writing career, views of postmodernism and his writing style and methodology. "One of the major questions we talked about though was a discussion about "truth" and its role in fiction," said Professor Lennon. "Hemon told us that he takes true moments of his life but then uses them to build a complicated web of a story."

After the class, Hemon met with a group of students from the Eastern European Club, including several members of the Men's Water Polo team from Serbia. They shared stories about their homeland in the former Yugoslavia.

The visit ended with Hemon reading the story, "The Noble Truths of Suffering" to a full theater. He was then peppered with questions about how his writing differs depending on whether he writes in English (his body of Fiction) or Bosnian (a Non-Fiction column), the cultural scene in Bosnia and the how his writing changed since the siege of Sarajevo.

"The fact of the war, even if I didn't experience it directly, affected everything I do and say and think," Hemon told the audience. "I cannot imagine my life without it. It's absorbed in my life fully."

He went on to talk about how his writing transformed, "I remember this, as the war started and I found I could write in either language, I couldn't remember what I used to write. The stories I wrote were unreadable to me. I couldn't stand thinking about them let alone reading them. But then somewhere in the magazine pieces I wrote as a journalist, I found one or two paragraphs written as though they had come from a different person. I could not remember writing them really. I liked them and I realized that's what I like to write. It was present inside me but I wasn't conscious of that until it was activated. Another way to put it, before the war I was a lot more hip but I like this better; not the war, my sensibility."

Aleksandar Hemon was born in Sarajevo and moved to Chicago shortly before his home city came under siege in 1992. His collection of short stories, Love and Obstacles, pieces together to tell the story of a young man coming of age and about to leave communist Sarajevo as the city is reeling from war. He was awarded a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation and named finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award.

The St. Francis College Literary Prize is one of the richest Literary Prizes in the United States and is meant to offer encouragement and significant financial support to a mid-career writer.

Attached Photos: (From L-R: Dimitar Georgiev, Boris Vukasovic, Nikola Djuric, Aleksandar Hemon, Alexander Pantic, Josip Jurcevic, Predrag Predin, Aleksandar Zecevic)

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

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