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Feb 12, 2023
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The Bosnian American author Aleksandar Hemon was a National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for his 2008 novel “The Lazarus Project,” about the police killing of an immigrant youth in Chicago in the early 20th century.

His latest novel, “The World and All That It Holds” (MCD), is the bold story of an apothecary in 1914 Sarajevo who witnesses the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, and is swept up in the calamitous events of World War I.

Read an excerpt below.   

“The World and All That It Holds” by Aleksandar Hemon (Hardcover)

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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.

From “The World and All That It Holds” by Aleksandar Hemon. Copyright © 2023 by Aleksandar Hemon. Reprinted with permission of MCD, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC.

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“The World and All That It Holds” by Aleksandar Hemon (Hardcover)

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