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The Lazarus Project Summary & Study Guide

Aleksandar Hemon
This Study Guide consists of approximately 39 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Lazarus Project.
This section contains 694 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Lazarus Project Summary & Study Guide Description

The Lazarus Project Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon.

NOTE: Due to the nature and structure of this novel, this study guide references page numbers instead of chapter numbers. This guide refers specifically to the Riverhead/Penguin Books First Trade Paperback Edition, May 2009.

“The Lazarus Project” is a combination historical-contemporary novel by Aleksandar Hemon, which recounts the efforts of modern-day journalist Bosnian-American Vladimir Brik to get to the bottom of the 1908 killing of suspected anarchist Lazarus Averbuch. The novel alternates between the years 1908 and 2004, telling the stories of the aftermath of Lazarus’s killing, and Brik’s investigation, concurrently.

On March 2, 1908, 19-year-old Lazarus Averbuch, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, goes to the home of Chicago Police Chief George Shippy. Upon being given a letter by Lazarus, and discovering that Lazarus is armed, Shippy opens fire himself. His son comes rushing down the stairs just as Shippy’s police driver enters the room. In the confusion, Shippy accidentally shoots his own son and his driver, while the driver and Shippy shoot and kill Lazarus. A search is immediately conducted for more information about Lazarus, during which time it is discovered he is a member of the anarchist movement, and he was apparently in a suicide pact with anarchist associate Isador Maron.

Among those questioned is Olga, the older sister of Lazarus. She denies having any knowledge of Lazarus’s anarchist activities as well as any knowledge of where Isador has gone. Olga is beside herself with grief after what has happened to her brother. She later discovers Isador hiding in the cesspit of the outhouse. She gives him shelter by hiding him in her wardrobe. Olga demands to know how Isador could have dragged her brother into anarchism. Isador says that Lazarus was his own person, and made his own decisions. He tells her that there is more to the killing of Lazarus that meets the eye, and that it is being used as an excuse to drum up anti-immigrant support. When Lazarus’s body is buried unceremoniously in potter’s field and stolen by grave robbers to be sold for medical study, public concern mounts. The police recover the body, though many organs are missing. They request Olga attend the reburial as a statement of supporting law and order, as well as to keep calls for violence on both sides down. Olga reluctantly agrees only when immigrants siding with the police agree to smuggle Isador to Canada.

In Chicago nearly 100 years later, Brik has accidentally stumbled across the little-remembered story of Lazarus’s death and has decided to write a book about it and the immigrant experience. Unable to find out much about Lazarus in Chicago because so much has changed and been forgotten, Lazarus’s old friend, photographer Rora suggests traveling to Ukraine and Moldova to learn about Lazarus’s roots. With a grant in hand for the project, Brik and Rora travel to Bosnia, Ukraine, and Moldova. Having both survived the genocide in Bosnia some years before, both men are sensitive to the importance of cultural diversity and are haunted by the past the way the Jews of Eastern Europe are after the repeated pogroms they endured. One such pogrom led to the death of the father of Olga and Lazarus, prompting their mother and older siblings to send them on to America.

As Brik comes to learn, the message for Shippy that Lazarus carried was a warning from Lazarus’s employer that Emma Goldman, leader of the anarchist movement, was coming to Chicago. It is believed it was the employer’s way of trying keep Lazarus out of trouble. Brik learns that the devastated Olga later returned to Europe, where she was presumably killed during the Holocaust. As Brik and Rora travel back to Sarajevo to wrap up their journey, Rora is gunned down. The official account in the papers is that Rora was killed by a drug addict who stole and sold Rora’s camera for drug money. Brik, however, believes the killing was orchestrated by people Rora had crossed paths with during the war in the early 1990s who believed Rora took pictures of something he should not have, most probably a murder.

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