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Book Title: The Cellist of Sarajevo|
The author of the book: Steven Galloway
Date of issue: 2009
ISBN 13: 9781843547419
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 873 KB
Edition: Atlantic Books
Read full description of the books The Cellist of Sarajevo:Few books have ever moved me to tears. Sure, I get sad every once in a while when reading a story, but hardly ever do I feel like crying after a novel. THE CELLIST OF SARAJEVO made me cry. Not face trembling, snot pouring from the nose type of crying, rather, the tears that came from completion of this novel were from a deep sadness I rarely experience. But before getting to my crying episode, let me first share a few things that I found amazing with this book:
1) It was written by Steve Galloway, a Canadian, who has no ties with the people or the city of Sarajevo
2) This story is based on the real life event of Vedran Smailovic, a cellist who played for 22 days as snipers fought each other in the buildings surrounding him
3) Even the people that do not have major roles in the novel are given a voice through the actions, inactions, emotions, and thoughts of the ones that are actively described and followed, which gives this book a Dickensian quality that I admire and appreciate because the novel is only 235 pages long
4) The simple fact that this story was told at all…history has had a funny way of forgetting this part of the world.
The story opens in a war-torn part of Sarajevo. People are mulling about, trying to live their lives as best they can in a besieged city. As they try to hustle each other for food or information or cigarettes, a whistle splits the air….a mortar has landed among them, killing 22, maiming countless others. These are civilians that have been targeted. They pose no military threat. Most of the killed are women and children.
The next day, at approximately the same time that the mortar fell, a man enters the street carrying a cello case, sets up a chair, and opens the cello case. He takes his time. Almost as if time no longer exists for him. And in a way, for the man and the people of Sarajevo, time is no longer a constricting factor on their lives. After he has opened the case, he takes out his cello and begins to tune it. Again, time plays no part here. He is not here for the rebels; he is not here for a political statement. He is here for the ones that are no longer able to be there. Slowly, like a surgeon making the first cut for open heart surgery, he draws his bow across the strings and plays. Music fills the empty air. And for a bit, anger and violence are no longer heard.
Had this been a one-time occurrence, this story would be a footnote in world history, a hushed whisper among historical enthusiasts. But the next day the cellist does the same thing; and he continues to partake in this seemingly idiotic music playing for twenty-two days. Every day is dedicated to one of the 22 that was killed by the mortar. This is all fact.
Enter Steve Galloway. This young author takes this story and does not necessarily spin it, in as much as he creates a perfect background for it. In his version of Sarajevo, he brings the reader into a world that few of us will ever experience. He builds a perfect world of rubble one dilapidated and shelled-out building at a time. Then he creates fictitious people to populate his vision. These are not military commandos performing feats of courage; these people are not villains and heroes that fight; the people within this story are ordinary people: an old woman, an exhausted man, a young woman who knows only the truth when she squeezes the trigger of her rifle, and a young man that wants to be courageous, but knows that courage is only a means to immediate death. These people are not selfish. They are not numb to what is happening in their city. They have become shells of themselves, like the destroyed buildings that once harbored commerce or residential life.
The story follows these people through an average day of what they could be expected to experience. For some, the day involves getting water from a well. For others, the action of the day follows them to the market, where they hope to get any type of bread, fresh or otherwise. Some of these characters have to run a gauntlet of enemy soldiers firing upon them. Some of them have to make hard decisions of helping thy neighbor, or helping only thyself.
The other main character is the female sniper that is pulled from her normal duties, and given the assignment of protecting the cellist. (This may or may not be fact.) At first, she argues against such a colossal task. The cellist has become something of a national figure now. The music that spews forth from his instrument is more devastating to the surrounding soldiers than bombs or missiles or bullets. For this music is hope. And hope is not what the conquerors want to face. They want to face scared men and women, trembling children. Reluctantly, she accepts this assignment. For the most part, she listens to him play, thinks about her own personal history, and wonders if there will ever be a day that all of this can be forgotten. (I will spare any more details for fear of giving a crucial sequence of events away.)
Now, why did this story move me to tears? The answer may not be as simple as I once thought. I have never seen war. I hope to never see war. In all the accounts of war that I have read and heard firsthand from my father and brothers, not once was I ever moved to a state of sadness as I was upon completion of this book. When I finished reading this, I sat in my chair and thought about the man getting water from a well. He once had a life that was drastically different than the one he now lived. And then I thought about the old woman and wondered if she ever thought she would experience such cruelty in her lifetime. Then I thought about how this story, true events with an embellished backdrop, probably happened in some variant form. I thought about the places in the world that have escalating violence, and wondered if I will ever see it come to my country. I thought about history and the way it treats its victims. Then I thought about the cellist. I thought about his actions, his courage, his resolve to keep playing until he had honored each and every one of the 22 that were killed. And then I cried. Because I knew that I could never be that brave.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Read information about the authorGalloway was born in Vancouver, and raised in Kamloops, British Columbia. He attended the University College of the Cariboo and the University of British Columbia. His debut novel, Finnie Walsh, was nominated for the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award. His second novel, Ascension, was nominated for the BC Book Prizes' Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and has been translated into numerous languages. His third novel, The Cellist of Sarajevo, was published in spring of 2008. It was heralded as "the work of an expert" by the Guardian, and has become an international bestseller with rights sold in 20 countries. Galloway has taught creative writing at the University of British Columbia and taught and mentored creative writing in The Writer's Studio, at the writing and publishing program at Simon Fraser University.
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