THE CONDUCTOR: Aleksandar Hemon

“I didn’t know what my poems were about, but I believed in them. I liked their titles (“Peter Pan and the Lesbians,” “Love and Obstacles,” et cetera), and I felt that they attained a realm of human innocence and experience that was unknowable, even by me.”

This is a lively, compulsively written portrait of Bosnians during their War leading somehow into 9/11 America, satirising the pretentious poetry of passionate men, poems that equally somehow turn out beautiful in the end after a lifetime of the narrator’s up and down, here and there, envious and scorning by turns, relationship with the somehow ugly but more famous Bosnian poet Dedo, whom the narrator ended nicknaming that, as Dedo had once nicknamed and firmly damned him into being the Conductor even though the narrator was a pretentious poet, too, and not a conductor of Beethoven at all! It is all incredibly funny and passionate and politically, humanly tragic, and Dedo’s wife, I think this was her, or it may have been another woman whom either of the main male characters lusted after in outrageous poetry recitals and down the stairs into bars, yes, my own pretentiousness was also satirised by the fact that her only body part not being mentioned was the elbow! But everything ended up beautiful, even me. Pretentious enough again to mention myself in a review about a story that had nothing to do with me. A once downbeat writer, now reviewer, following other writers more famous than me!
And so back to the lack of her elbow…

“There were poems about her instep and her heel, her armpit and her breasts, the small of her back and the size of her eyes, the knobs on her knees and the ridges on her spine.”

***

Full context of this review:

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