Friday, April 17, 2009
By the Chapter, Day 5 - The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Today is the final day of By the Chapter, and the conversation Marcia and I have been having about The Cellist of Sarajevo. Make sure to stop by The Printed Page today for Marcia's final thoughts about the novel.
If you enjoyed Albinoni's Adagio yesterday, here is another beautiful arrangement. The music starts at about 1:15.
In my post yesterday, I mentioned that there hadn't been a whole lot of action. Well, the final section of the book certainly changed that, putting each of the characters into dangerous, life-changing situations. Arrow, Kenan, and Dragan each have to make decisions that will alter the course of their lives. And, eventually, the cellist stops playing, picks up his stool, and leaves.
I believe there are two quotes that sum up this novel much more eloquently than I can. The first is this:
"This is how she believes life happens. A series of inconsequential junctions, any or none of which can lead to salvation or disaster. There are no grand moments where a person does or does not perform the act that defines their humanity. There are only moments that appear, briefly, to be this way."
This is the essence of the novel. Life happens in small, everyday decisions that have the possibility of being momentous. Dragan has to decide, every day, when he will cross the street, and that simple choice means the difference between life and death. Kenan has to choose which roads will be safe, and which roads will be shelled, and that decision will mean water for his family, or thirst. Arrow must decide where the enemy sniper will hide, and when he will shoot, and her choice means the cellist lives to play another day, or does not. And that is the truth of life. Every decision we make, no matter how small, has consequences - we might not see them today, or tomorrow, but they all mean something in the grand scheme of our lives.
This is the second quote:
"He will behave now as he hopes everyone will someday behave. Because civilization isn't a thing that you build and then there it is, you have it forever. It needs to be built constantly, re-created daily. It vanishes far more quickly than he ever would have thought possible. And if he wishes to live, he must do what he can to prevent the world he wants to live in from fading away. As long as there's war, life is a preventative measure."
This is the message of the novel - we must live the way we want the world to become.
I believe The Cellist of Sarajevo is a must-read novel. It is a war narrative, and so much more. It is about the power of music to heal, the triumph of humanity over horror, the belief that good truly can come from evil. It is a simple, beautiful novel that you won't be able to forget.