Aleksandar Hemon’s literary profession has been nothing if not various, with works that vary from the comedian novel The Making of Zombie Wars to his acclaimed The Lazarus Mission, from collections of essays and tales to his collaboration with Lana Wachowski and David Mitchell on the script for The Matrix Resurrections. The World and All That It Holds launches him but once more into new territory, as his formidable, elegantly wrought novel melds two love tales that play out amid the devastating world conflicts of the primary half of the twentieth century.
Rafael Pinto, a poetry-writing Bosnian Jew with a weak point for opiates, witnesses the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his spouse simply exterior his Sarajevo apothecary store in August 1914. Shortly afterward, Rafael finds himself conscripted into the military of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and combating within the bloody trenches of World Warfare I, the place “nothing occurred on a regular basis, and in addition very slowly.” Rafael falls in love with Osman, one other Sarajevan member of his unit, a Muslim man and gifted storyteller with “a knack for fixing issues.”
Rafael’s entanglement within the brutal, pointless battle is barely the start of an odyssey that takes him from Europe’s battlefields to the Asian wilderness and on foot throughout the Chinese language desert, then to Shanghai the place he experiences life as a refugee within the interval that extends from a couple of years previous the Japanese invasion of 1937 to the Communist takeover in 1949. For many of that journey, he’s accompanied by Osman’s daughter, Rahela, after Osman disappears. However even after Osman’s bodily presence is gone, his bond with Rafael is the supply of a sustaining energy inside this harsh new life, one which slowly deepens Rafael’s affection for Rahela.
The World and All That It Holds principally follows the views of Rafael and Rahela, with occasional detours into the memoirs of colourful British spy Edgar Moser-Ethering, who turns into a ubiquitous presence in Rafael’s life.
Hemon’s capability to pack such an epic narrative into 352 pages is spectacular. Throughout all its settings, the story is enriched by the buildup of intently noticed particulars. Vivid motion sequences are neatly balanced with scenes exploring the characters’ inside lives. Though the story shouldn’t be overtly spiritual, Hemon alludes incessantly to the biblical account of the Tower of Babel and God’s determination to “confound their speech, in order that no person shall perceive,” in addition to the Samsara wheel, the image of reincarnation in Buddhism and Hinduism. “Simply love one another regardless of the world you suppose you is likely to be in,” a personality tells Rafael and Osman. The facility of affection to provide that means to life, even within the worst of circumstances, suffuses this quietly passionate story.