The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

I opted to stay home this morning.  It feels like heaven to shuffle to the coffee maker…return to bed with a hot cup of coffee…the bedside lamp lit…and finish reading a book.  The Cellist of Sarajevo was a two-sitting read…a wonderful relief to some degree after the very dense book, Songs in Ordinary Times.

I had wanted to read this one for a long time and just recently found a copy in the second hand shop.  Based on a most devastating time in our history, in Sarajevo, this fiction brings us into the lives of ‘real’ characters and what they endure in the streets and torn ruins of a place that at one time seemed in ways, idyllic.

Art transcends the brutal hatred, insensitivity and dehumanizing conditions of war.  The cellist represents all that is beautiful about the human spirit.  I warn you that the following documentary is graphic…and captures images of the horror of greed and misguided belief.  I hope that you will watch it for its duration and never forget.

Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own. Carol Burnett

One Book One Calgary

This past November, the Calgary Public Library provided the city with a beautiful initiative, One Book One Calgary; talks, discussion groups and events around the book, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.  An excellent guide has been provided by the Public Library, with questions and contextual information.  I attended a couple of the events and was excited to hear, in panel; Steven Galloway, Author, Heather Slater, Director, Artistic Operations, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and Michael Green, Curator and Creative Producer of Calgary 2012 as they explored, along with us, the role of Arts in Society.  An excellent session that ended abruptly, as if on cue, with a four-truck fire alarm. :0)

I am inspired by the story of the Cellist of Sarajevo,  Vedran Smailović.

Regarding the book, we are cautioned as readers of fiction rooted in true world events, that there is a potential for misunderstanding/misinterpretation and that for the most part, the reader needs to take responsibility to inform themselves and to read other books, both fiction and non-fiction, that might give light to historical events and the impact those events had/have upon the ‘real-time’ characters in the situation.  The Cellist of Sarajevo is another such-book.  The essay by Walter Trkla supposes that Steven Galloway does not care.  I think that this may not necessarily be true…but certainly, when writing about someone else’s history, it is a supposition that can be taken.  I’m not certain that Walter Trkla and Steven Galloway have been in conversation.

“In The Cellist of Sarajevo, the uninformed reader is not able to separate fact from fiction. One might assume Galloway does not know, nor does he care, if the reader knows the facts, since for most people in the West, including Galloway, our news is derived from media manipulation of events. As Galloway himself states, one of the people he interviewed, “Nenad Velicaovic, a Bosnian writer, shouted at him one day telling him to ‘Go home and write about Canada’. ‘You know nothing about Sarajevo.’ And he was right.” Galloway does not join the history of Sarajevo, he runs from it and in the end fabricates it. Galloway’s novel and its historical backdrop are manipulated writing that brings into question his main message on the impact of war on the individual.”

Vedran Smailović

I’m thinking of other writing based on history…closer to home, the stereotypical “Cowboy and Indian” stories.  I would not be too far off to state that, the viewpoint of the settlers of the west and those of the First Nations inhabitants of the day, would see these adventures of the west in a completely different light.  I would also guess that the writer had NO first hand experience of the west, when taking the plunge to write about it.  I think that it’s really important that we all educate ourselves about what is going on in the world so that we can be discerning readers.

Recently, I read The Wars by Timothy Findley.  I know from much of my recent research that Findley successfully coloured the events of 1916 and based his fiction on truth.

As a result of the One Book One Calgary initiative, I was prompted by a friend to enter the Art for Peace contest, with three different age categories.  Just today, I was notified that I am one of the winners, whose name was drawn for a prize,  and can’t be more thrilled!  Support your public library…it is more than a quiet place for research and silent reading…these days, a library is so much more!