Following the dual narratives of two men experiencing life as immigrants within Chicago, The Lazarus Project is a powerful tale of soul-searching, identity and existence. With the modern narrative following Vladimir Brik, Hemon explores both life and meaning for a Bosnian immigrant in America. Alongside this, what appears to be a very different story is that of Lazarus Averbuch, a man killed in cold blood during the anarchist wave ruthlessly abated by American law in the year 1903. As this novel progresses however, it appears these two stories are both interrelated, and painfully juxtaposed.
A clear theme of this novel is the need to find one’s place in life. The modern speaker, Brik, is stuck between two lives, an idealist one within America, and the one he left behind in Bosnia. As he embarks upon a pilgrimage to rediscover his home, he finds that this task is not so simple, especially when its purpose is still unknown. In brutal contrast to Lazarus, here is a character that seemingly has it all, yet is still searching for a greater meaning and acceptance in life. Whereas Lazarus was snuffed before his time, in a past looking for a brighter future, here is a man living in the future, looking for acceptance in his past.
The death of Lazurus is an obsession for Brik. He has read into it all that he can, and by journeying into the man’s homeland, he hopes to discern a greater understanding of him. But what soon becomes clear is that the past is simply the past, and Brik shares no relation with his woes, other than a city and a different heritage. Lazarus was beaten and controlled by America, Brik was raised and nurtured by it. In a powerful length of prose, Hemon uses Brik’s inquisitive yearning to discover himself as a clear reminder that life is never truly accepting, and that the only source to one’s identity, is oneself.
Overall Rating: 3 stars