My heart A novel

Semezdin Mehmedinović, 1960-

Book - 2021

"When a writer suffers a heart attack at the age of fifty, he must confront his mortality in a country that is not his native home. Confined to a hospital bed and overcome by a sense of powerlessness, he reflects on the fragility of life and finds extraordinary meaning in the quotidian. In this affecting autobiographical novel, Semezdin Mehmedinovic explores the love he and his family have for one another, strengthened by trauma; their harrowing experience of the Bosnian war, which led them to flee for the United States as refugees; eerie premonitions of Donald Trump's presidency; the life and work of a writer; and the nature of memory and grief."--Jacket flap.

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Autobiographical fiction
New York : Catapult [2021]
Main Author
Semezdin Mehmedinović, 1960- (author)
Other Authors
Celia Hawkesworth, 1942- (translator), Aleksandar Hemon, 1964- (writer of foreword)
Physical Description
ix, 225 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Notable Bosnian poet Mehmedinović (Sarajevo Blues, 2001) writes in first person in this autobiographical novel that explores themes of survival, perseverance, and love, ultimately conveying an intimate, yet profound and lyrical portrait of a man and his family. Each of the novel's three parts is a soulful reverie that opens with the narrator, nicknamed Me'med, describing an unforgettable physical experience that then serves as a catalyst for deep, internal reflection. In part one, Me'med's droll description of his violent heart attack is interwoven with musings on the passage of time, recollections of trauma, war and displacement, and tender, descriptive observations of his wife, Sanja. Traveling with his son, Harun, in part two, Me'med expresses their powerful bond while simultaneously recalling his years as a refugee, and articulating his sense of exile and experiences as a Muslim immigrant and minority in America. In part three, Me'med examines love and loss, and memory and mortality after his wife has a debilitating stroke. Rich references to photography, film, poetry, and literature, with pencil sketches appearing in part two, underscore the enigmatic and enduring links between art, life, and the continuity of our existence. Superbly translated by Celia Hawkesworth, My Heart is an introspective, literary journey worth taking.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Bosnian writer Mehmedinović (Sarajevo Blues) returns with a powerful autofictional gut punch of a novel. "Today, it seems, was the day I was meant to die," says narrator Meh'med about the near-fatal heart attack in his Washington, D.C., apartment in 2010 and his subsequent time spent in the hospital. After surgery and rehab, Meh'med feels compelled to revisit the first place he lived in the U.S. after he fled Sarajevo in 1996 during the Bosnian War, so he and his adult son, Harun, head to Phoenix. While tension brews between them, Meh'med finds comfort in their silent moments together, and in sharing their memories. After Meh'med's wife, Sanja, has a stroke, Meh'med remembers how she'd been his savior, standing between him and a rifle barrel in Sarajevo, and their combined melancholy as immigrants ("the antagonism of two worlds is the essence of exile"). What they have lost individually and together movingly permeate Meh'med's memories as he cares for Sanja after her stroke. In an introduction, Aleksandar Hemon calls Mehmedinović his favorite living Bosnian writer, and Mehmedinović echoes Hemon's work in its moments of playfulness, grace, and wonder as well as its blunt observations about the trauma of war and leaving one's homeland. Few books are this good at capturing an immigrant's sense of loss. (Mar.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

In his new autobiographical novel, acclaimed Bosnian poet Mehmedinovic´ (Sarajevo Blues) explores the many aspects of his heart. He begins by describing the heart attack he suffered at the age of 50. As he watches the surgeon repair his arteries, he thinks of his life in exile. He and his family fled Sarajevo in 1996 after surviving four years of war, hardship, and hunger. As refugees, they settled first in Phoenix and then moved to Washington, DC. The book's next section, interspersed with illustrations, describes a road trip to Arizona and Death Valley with his son, Harun, a journey that partly retraces the steps they took after arriving in the United States. The novel's final segment focuses on the author's wife, Sanja, as she recuperates from a stroke. Moving back and forth in time, the novel presents events on a continuum from past to present; how language reinforces Mehmedinovic´'s identity as a foreigner becomes a constant theme. In a revealing incident, the author meets an American poet in Iowa who suggests he could solve his "problems" by writing in English. VERDICT A stunning, thoughtful, and powerful discourse on identity, survival, and memory.--Jacqueline Snider, Toronto

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

The struggle of memory against forgetting tracked through three intimate journeys. Entering the increasingly crowded autofiction field, Mehmedinović examines the effort to remember--or more precisely, to not forget--our "brief and unrepeatable time in this indescribably beautiful world." The first section concerns Mehmedinović's authorial stand-in, Me'med, who has a heart attack in 2010 at age 50 that requires him to take medication that can lead to memory loss. The second details a road trip in Arizona that Me'med takes with his son, Harun, in 2015. The trip begins in Phoenix, with a visit to the apartment where the family lived upon first arriving in America from Bosnia 20 years earlier. His son is a photographer specializing in images of the night sky, capturing those moments that we don't always register upon first reflection. The third--and longest--section focuses on the aftermath of a stroke that Me'med's wife, Sanja, suffers in 2016. The fears of forgetting grow painfully tangible because Sanja loses the last four years of her life, to the point that she wants a cigarette because she's forgotten that she quit smoking. Me'med must relive the same events, answer the same questions, day after day, in the hope that they will both remember. He bounces between his present in the U.S. and his past in Sarajevo, both before the war and during the siege that began in 1992. Friends, often other writers, appear, but the focus here is family. Mehmedinović's poetic side reveals itself via achingly beautiful imagery and recurring motifs. And he is a remarkably prescient observer of America, including its "closing up" over the past 20 years, shown in the way foreign languages used to "arouse...curiosity, not aversion, certainly not fear." A deeply personal and incisive look at memory, anchored by astute observations. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.