The World and All That It Holds: A Novel (Hardcover)
Spanning nearly forty years and following its characters from Sarajevo to Shanghai, this novel examines the many shapes of violence, home and love. Hemon's prose is breathtaking, a journey both emotional and linguistic; the story equally so. If you like character-driven historical fiction, this one is for you.— From Amadea
The World and All That It Holds—in all its hilarious, heartbreaking, erotic, philosophical glory—showcases Aleksandar Hemon’s celebrated talent at its pinnacle. It is a grand, tender, sweeping story that spans decades and continents. It cements Hemon as one of the boldest voices in fiction.
As Archduke Franz Ferdinand arrives in Sarajevo one June day in 1914, Rafael Pinto is busy crushing herbs and grinding tablets behind the counter at the pharmacy he inherited from his estimable father. It’s not quite the life he had expected during his poetry-filled student days in libertine Vienna, but it’s nothing a dash of laudanum from the high shelf, a summer stroll, and idle fantasies about passersby can’t put in perspective.
And then the world explodes. In the trenches in Galicia, fantasies fall flat. Heroism gets a man killed quickly. War devours all that they have known, and the only thing Pinto has to live for are the attentions of Osman, a fellow soldier, a man of action to complement Pinto’s introspective, poetic soul; a charismatic storyteller; Pinto’s protector and lover.
Together, Pinto and Osman will escape the trenches, survive near-certain death, tangle with spies and Bolsheviks. Over mountains and across deserts, from one world to another, all the way to Shanghai, it is Pinto’s love for Osman—with the occasional opiatic interlude—that keeps him going.
About the Author
Aleksandar Hemon is the author of The Lazarus Project, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and three books of short stories: The Question of Bruno; Nowhere Man, which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Love and Obstacles. He was the recipient of a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship and a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, and the 2020 Dos Passos Prize. He lives in Chicago.
“The World and All That It Holds would be an audacious title for a book by anybody except God–or Aleksandar Hemon. . . the irrepressible voice of The World and All That It Holds glides along a cushion of poignancy buoyed by wry humor. From start to finish, no matter what else he’s up to, Hemon is telling a tale about the resilience of true love.”
—RON CHARLES, The Washington Post
“Love is not the engine of history, but it certainly makes for an indispensable source of auxiliary power in the historical novel… In this novel idyll and ordeal are not stable categories, but slide past each other.”
—ADAM MARS-JONES, The New York Times Book Review
“Hemon’s writing is both gripping and lucid. He creates this work around such meticulous texture that the reader can stand alongside Pinto, and feel the cities as if they were with him… The World And All That It Holds is a book that will resonate with readers because it shows how a life with purpose is one that is constant motion."
—EDWARD BANCHS, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Aleksandar Hemon’s The World and All That It Holds is one of the finest novels I’ve ever read, and like all great stories, it refuses to be pigeonholed. It’s a road novel, an immigrant tale, a ghost story, a family portrait, a mystery, a historical epic, a war novel, and yes, a love story—it is all that and more, a feat of
unfettered literary bravura. In short, a masterpiece.”
—RABIH ALAMEDDINE, author of The Wrong End of the Telescope
"Hemonites rejoice! The master is back and he has forged a remarkable tale of love and war alongside his own 20th Century Silk Road. From Sarajevo to Shanghai, every sentence, every paragraph is a sensuous and often hilarious delight. Not a Hemonite yet? I envy you your very first encounter with one of the world's greatest writers."
—GARY SHTEYNGART, author of Our Country Friends
"The World and All That It Holds is a twisting, turning epic rooted in love in all its forms; an odyssey of statelessness; a haunted museum of history ranging from Sarajevo to Shanghai and Jerusalem; and an apothecary of wit, folklore and unexpectable sentences. This life-stuffed novel is Aleksandar Hemon’s masterpiece.”
—DAVID MITCHELL, author of Cloud Atlas
"The World and All that It Holds is an explosive novel. Bursting with energy, wits, and insights, it’s an epic meditation on history, philosophy, and human conditions. Aleksandar Hemon once again proves him to be one of our most innovative and invigorating novelists."
—YIYUN LI, author of The Book of Goose
“This book is a refuge. Amid the catastrophe and unimaginable loss, you can still find heartbreaking kindness; you can still hear songs and laughter; still know the tender brush of a lover’s whiskered cheek. Every page folds itself around you, as comforting as an embrace, and in those pages, you will feel Aleksandar Hemon’s heart beating beside yours.”
—LANA WACHOWSKI, filmmaker
“The World And All That It Holds is a masterwork of the epic and the intimate. I lost myself to this tale of Sarajevans drawn into the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand and their fight to survive in the war that followed. It is a staggering work of beauty and brutality, a testament to love, family, and the ties that call us home.”
—DOUGLAS STUART, author of Shuggie Bain
"An astoundingly expansive new novel form one of my all-time favorite writers. The World and All That It Holds is at once a heartbreaking love story and a thrilling history of twentieth-century Eurasia. It's an amazing accomplishment of epic history and personal drama."