The World and All That It Holds would be an audacious title for a book by anybody except God — or Aleksandar Hemon. But this Bosnian American author will make you a believer ... Charismatic ... Sounds awfully grim, I know, and there’s plenty of horror in these fiery pages, but 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 ... [An] epic ... The plot’s inexhaustible invention is just one of this novel’s wonders. The other is Hemon’s mysterious narrator. He speaks from the future but resides incarnate in these characters ... The real miracle of The World and All That It Holds is that despite holding so much, we come to know the fragile joys of this one melancholy man so well that he feels written into our own past.
Unlike-any-novel-I’ve-read-before ... I have puzzled over how vividly it remains with me — I keep reentering this world, its sensory intensity more palpable than many memories of my own life. The novel’s ability to perpetuate itself seems to me to come both from the fantastic virtuosity of the writing and from the wonderfully realized idea of the book ... The clear story lines of fable — flight, romance, battle scene, epic journey, retrospect — are throughlines around which reverberate the propulsive and complicated sentences Hemon writes ... The World and All That It Holds makes one bold innovative move after another, rapidly changing perspectives, leaping forward with the flexibility of the splendid narrative voice, bringing in powerful characters ... The astonishment of this novel is that it creates that movement in time. In The World and All That It Holds, we do remember that future, and all the futures it entails.
In this novel idyll and ordeal are not stable categories, but slide past each other ... Some of the lovers’ words and phrases can feel like approximations, hitting false notes ... There is also an epilogue written in the same first-person voice, recounting the author-figure’s meeting in Jerusalem in 2001 with the 'real' Rahela Pinto, who supposedly inspired the character. Postmodernism has made readers wary of any such claims of historical veracity, and in any case stories win us over with their fruits and flowers, not with their roots. We believe in Pinto’s experiences not because there may have been a person by that name, but thanks to the fierceness of the details.