The Aquarium by Aleksandar Hemon

  In addition to being a bookaholic, I am also a magazine-aholic and have several subscriptions that pile up alongside the bookshelf.  One of my subscriptions (on my nook — less clutter!) is to The New Yorker, and the current issue is “The Fiction Issue” with essays and short fiction by a wide range of authors.

  If the first piece – “The Aquarium” by Aleksandar Hemon – is any indication, this is going to be one amazing issue.  (Sadly, it is behind the website’s paywall so I can only provide a link to the abstract)

  My only familiarity with Hemon to now has been his work as editor of the Best European Fiction anthologies (I have The Lazarus Project patiently waiting on the shelf, which now may be moved to the front of the pile).  Last November, as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, he was to moderate a selection of readings from the anthology and I attended; however at the beginning of the program another gentleman came to the podium to say that Hemon was not able to be there because his daughter passed away. 

  This essay is about his daughter Isabel — only nine months old when diagnosed with a rare brain tumor — and the progress of her illness and how it affects not only her parents but her 3 year old sister Ella.  I am not a parent so I cannot imagine the experience of seeing one child go through so much pain and suffering while trying to keep a brave face for your other child.  Ella seems wise beyond her years, keeping Isabel smiling when she is able to visit her in the hospital, while at home creating an imaginary brother;  all the while appearing to understand that things are wrong. 

  This is a heartbreaking story (Isabel only recently passed her 1st birthday when she died) but so well-written, and if you’re a marshmallow like me (and, frankly, even if you’re not) make sure to have a tissue or two handy if you have the opportunity to read it. 

Highly recommended.


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