Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

"It screamed downward, splitting air and sky without effort. A target expanded in size and brought into focus by time and velocity."

Title: The Cellist of Sarajevo
Author: Steven Galloway
ISBN: 9781921351303
Publisher: Text Publishing/2008
Pages: 222
Rating: 5/5

Right in the beginning of 2009, I get to read an unforgettable book. It is one of those books which is going to stay in mind. Steven Galloway was kind enough to send to me The Cellist of Sarajevo when I requested for it.

Based in strife ridden Sarajevo, it might be a piece of fiction but it feels so real. The deep fear within the psyche of its people and the way they get on with their life despite it, is what completely takes us in. The meaningless war impacts the people but it appears no one really cares for them apart from a few handful. With random sniper attacks, life becomes a drudgery yet it cannot break the spirits of the people.

This novel is based on a real event. In 1992, twenty people were killed in a mortar attack while waiting for bread. A renowned local cellist Vedran Smailovic, played Albinoni's Adagio at that very same site, for the next twenty two days in their honour, unmindful of sniper attacks.

In this book, the cellist remains namelss. Arrow, a female sniper from the good side is given the task of saving him while he plays, although he is not aware of it. Arrow has deliberately forgotten her real name. Kenan, another ordinary citizen has to go out to fetch water for his family and landlady once in four days. Then there is Dagan, who misses his wife and son.

On a first look, it appears that these people are unconnected but as we read along, we find that, the common factor that ties them, is the disregard of fear. And the extreme courage shown by them. The futility of war is manifested a thousand times in their hopes, wishes and aspirations. They are in no way responsible. Still they suffer. But they face it with dignity.

In midst of it all, this book also asks us who is fighting for whom and for what? Why is the govt so helpless in certain situations? Why can't it take care of its people? Do they simply fade away or live with hope? Staying alive for oneself, family and others is important. Keeping hope alive too is necessary. No matter what. The Cellist of Sarajevo tells us all that and much more. A book to be remembered for a long time to come. No one is going to regret reading this novel ever.