Alta Ifland grew up in Eastern Europe and immigrated to the States in 1991. Her bilingual (French-English) book of prose poems, Voice of Ice, was awarded the 2008 Louis Guillaume Prize for Prose Poems. Her collection of short stories, Elegy for a Fabulous World, is forthcoming from ninebark press. Her story, "No One's Story," was looked at earlier today here at the EWN.
The Question of Bruno by Bosnian-born writer Aleksandar Hemon is one of the best short story collections I read in a long time. Besides the fact that it is very well written and very funny, it uses a Balzacian technique (that is, a technique invented by Balzac in the cycle La Comédie Humaine, in which a story from one book complements another book’s events, and a character from one book/story makes a brief appearance in another book/story). For example, Josef Pronek from “Blind Josef Pronek and Dead Souls” is also the main character in most of the pieces published two years after The Question of Bruno under the title Nowhere Man, with the subtitle “The Pronek Fantasies.”
Some of the stories in The
Question of Bruno have Hemon as a character. In “Exchange of Pleasant Words,” we are
basically given a mythical version of the origin of Hemon’s family—indeed, a
myth of origin: an Alexandre Hemon from France supposedly ended up in Ukraine as he retreated with Napoleon's army, and from there, the family immigrated to Bosnia.
Hemon’s two main characters, Pronek and Hemon, actually cross paths and meet in the story “Blind Josef and Dead Souls.” The same thing happens with other characters from the book, for example Sorge from “The Sorge Spy Ring,” a spy the narrator has read about as a child in The Greatest Spies of World War Two, who reappears in the book’s last story, “Imitation of Life,” as well as in the novel Nowhere Man. The separate universes of the various stories are thus united into one encompassing, lifelike world.