Aleksandar Hemon

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October 22, 2024 at 7:00PM ET

Location: Copley Formal Lounge

Join us for an evening with award-winning author Aleksandar Hemon, hosted by Rabih Alameddine, Lannan Visiting Chair.

Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made by October 15th to Patricia Guzman, 202-687-6294, A good faith effort will be made to fulfill requests made after October 15th.

Excerpt from The World and All That It Holds by Aleksandar Hemon

THE HOLY ONE kept creating worlds and destroying them, creating worlds and destroying them, and then, just before giving up, He finally came up with this one. And it could be much worse, this world and all that it holds, as I certainly know how to get my hands on some interesting stuff around here. Let’s see: LAPIS INFERNALIS, LAUDANUM, next to it, LAVENDER.

Pinto took the laudanum off the shelf, knocking over the lavender tin, which miraculously did not break open when it hit the floor. He released a drop of laudanum onto a sugar lump, watched the brown stain bloom, then placed it in his mouth. While the sugar and bitterness dissolved on his tongue, he picked up the lavender, dipped his nose into the tin, and inhaled—vast Mediterranean flower fields stretched inside him, the blue sea lapping at his soul, a turquoise sky and swallows floating above it all, the laudanum sailing on his blood all the way to his mind, and then beyond. To all the things created at twilight on the Šabat eve, the Lord wisely added laudanum, just to help make everything more beautiful and bearable.

Now was Rafael Pinto much better prepared for the Archduke Franz Ferdinand von Österreich-Este, Heir Apparent to the Habsburg Empire and Inspector General of the Imperial Armed Forces, and for the whole spectacle he was bringing to Sarajevo just to see how we live here. We live rather well, Your Highness, I must say, provided there is enough laudanum and lavender on hand, thank You very much for Your kind concern. And since this is an enterprise of providing remedy for the body as much as for the soul, we’re sure to have plenty of whatever we might need, long live the Emperor, the Lord be praised, and bless You too.

After a drab, rainy week, the morning was sunny and the light broke through the windows as never before, rearranging the checkered floor into unprecedented patterns. The sugar was now completely dissolved but the bitterness lingered, tickling his tongue. God wrapped Himself in white garments, and the radiance of His majesty illuminated the world, and right here on the floor of the Apotheke Pinto we can now behold a little patch of one of those very garments. There might be a poem for me to write about the light shifting and altering the visible: God’s Garments, it could be called. But then, who would ever care about any of it, no one cares about light and what it does to the soul, not here in this city behind God’s back.

Continue reading The World and All That It Holds by Aleksandar Hemon at Macmillan.

Read more about Aleksandar Hemon.