Hemon Can't Wait

The novel's nonlinear structure does have flaws—the most glaring being that his narrators are not created equal. Victor, an aimless American grad student who pines after the resolutely heterosexual Jozef, offers a detailed account of their summer in the Ukraine that pales in comparison to the other chapters. It's hard to imagine what Hemon intended to illustrate here: perhaps Jozef's machismo, his political passion, or perhaps the cluelessness of corn-fed Americans like Victor, who've been insulated from history's cruel dramas.

At one point Hemon peels himself away from Pronek's tale to explain his authorial dilemma: "The hard part in writing a narrative of someone's life is choosing from the abundance of details and microevents, all of them equally significant, or equally insignificant." If you include only the big stuff, then you lose the real fabric of life, but you can't "list all the moments when the world tickles your senses, only to seep away between your fingers and eyelashes, leaving you alone to tell the story of your life to an audience interested only in the fireworks of universal experiences." Hemon finds a graceful equilibrium in Nowhere Man, using novelistic tricks and perfectly elastic language to create a sidelong portrait of Josef Pronek, double agent and new American, riding the currents of history.

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