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Follow her as she prepares and partakes the "bread for the stomach" in http://beforesixdiet.blogspot.com/ . And while you are full at it, she offers you the "bread for the soul" in her travels by foot and by thoughts in http://footandfire.blogspot.com/ Happy Reading!

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo
By Steven Galloway
227 pages, Novel

There is nothing spectacular about this novel. I almost decided so because we all feel bad when there is violence or war; I believe that empathy is embedded in our genes. But I was wrong because empathy is not automatic in all of us, but still, I concluded that this book is spectacular because the writer presented to us many moral issues when we are placed in the middle of violence or war.

While I am reading this novel, the present violence occurring in Libya, Ukraine and Syria appear in my mind; the hardship and constant fear of the people caught in between the violence. I just wish those who hold firearms would get hold of this novel too.

This novel was inspired by a story of Serajevo's renowned cellist Vedran Smailovic who in real life played Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor for 22 days in honor of the 22 people lining up for bread in the market died after several mortar shell struck. But the story does not revolve around the cellist but the people around the cellist.

I was able to see things through the eyes of Arrow, a lady sniper who cannot just kill for the sake of killing. To her, the "them against us" rationale is not enough for her to pull the trigger. She lost her father in war and her skill sent her to a morally challenging role of a sniper. Her conversation to her self is what I wanted to understand, and the novel presented them in a way that leaves the reader to be in deep thinking too.

Kenan, who has a family to keep, struggles for his dear life every time he fetches water in a reservoir. Through his seemingly ordinary task, I felt his need to bring water to his family and I also felt his need to survive because he cannot let any of his children die from the shelling while on his way to the reservoir. His personality may be submissive but the violence around him turned him into a hero for his family.

The story is also told through Dragan who let his wife and daughter escape but decided to stay to keep their apartment. He seems to be friendly during the peace time but he ends up partly aloof  during the war. He considers himself a coward because he cannot have himself enlist in the army unlike a friend whom he communicates with from time to time. He was also able to meet the friend of his wife whose interaction with her made him rethink what he can do to help during the time of war.

What I can't forget about this novel is the dreams of the three characters for a normal life, that is, a life without war during the times when war becomes what is normal. They dream of things people during peace time forget to be a blessing, like enough water and electricity or at least shaving. They all dream to see their children grow up and enjoy their youth, eat in a restaurant, and walk the streets without fear. This novel reminds us of the gift of peace and why war should not be an option.

I felt so naive in saying the last sentence. But I am not taking it back. I just have to retell a story of two plane fighters during the World War II. One is from US and the other from France (I am not so sure). One hit the jet of the other but it was a good thing that other one survived. During the recent years, the survivor  looked for his "enemy" and finds out that he is a baker and a good father just like him.

With this true story I read in Reader's Digest, I am not hesitant to declare that, "this novel reminds us of the gift of peace and why war should not be an option."