Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo
Steven Galloway
Published by Riverhead Books of
The Penguin Group

The Cellist of Sarajevo is a very personal and condensed account of the Seige of Sarajevo (1992-1996) during the Bosnian War through the stories of three individuals - four, if you count the cellist himself. The cellist, however, is more a focus point around which this riveting story is told. Everyday for 22 days the cellist played the same tune at the same site where a mortar attack killed his friends and neighbors. This was a true event.
See photo here.

I vaguely remember those years, ’92-’96. I was a busy working mother at the time. The Bosnian War played like Muzak through the days of my life. I was aware, but hardly conscious of what was going on. Reading Arrow’s, Dragan’s and Kenan’s stories of daily living with sniper fire, no water or electricity, the fear of what the next day might bring, I felt and saw an almost contrapuntal weaving of events during those years - their lives and mine playing totally different and dissonant tunes and yet weaving around one another.

It is a lovely book, a lyrical book. I was drawn into the characters’ lives, walked the sniper-infested streets with them, hid in the shadows of their bombed out buildings and homes with them, heard hope in the notes of Albinoni’s Adagio with them.

My only argument would be with the last three chapters where Galloway gets a little preachy and tells us what we already really know. Arrow, Dragan and Kenan told us. We didn’t need a summation.

But I definitely recommend this book. Read it. Please.

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