Dodging bullets for their daily bread

Carol Luers EymanIn the US, most of us have it easy. We don’t risk our lives obtaining food and water.

The Cellist of Sarajevo

“The Cellist of Sarajevo” by Steven Galloway is available from the library in hardcover and paperback.

Not so in Sarajevo in the early 1990s. The once magnificent city, site of the 1984 Winter Olympics, was besieged by the Bosnian Serbs, bombarded by over 300 shells a day for nearly four years. Ten thousand people were killed and 87 percent of the city’s buildings were bombed.

Canadian author Steven Galloway personalizes this tragedy in The Cellist of Sarajevo, a slim novel that delves into the war-torn minds of four of its victims.

Kenan, the father of young children, considers himself a coward. Yet every few days he walks several miles to fill six containers of water for his family, dodging shells and sniper fire. He even finds it in himself to fill two extra containers for an elderly, ungrateful neighbor downstairs.

Dragan no longer receives a paycheck from his job at a large bakery but with the promise of some bread for himself and his relatives, continues to brave city streets on his walk to work.

A cellist vows to sit in a city square, risking sniper fire, and play a poignant adagio every day for 22 days. He wants to honor the 22 people who were killed in a bombing at the same spot, waiting in line for a bit of bread.

Arrow, who before the war excelled on her college’s target-shooting team, is ordered by the army to help defend the city from the snipers in the hills–and to protect the cellist as he plays.

The plot of The Cellist of Sarajevo is easy to follow, but the ethical questions are profound. You owe it to millions of innocent people, in Gaza, in Iraq, in Syria, who are living the lives of Galloway’s characters, to spend a few hours pondering them. After all, you don’t have to risk anything to get your hands on this book.



About Carol Luers Eyman

Carol Luers Eyman is the outreach and community services coordinator at the Nashua Public Library. After graduating from Kirkland College, she earned a master’s of education and a certificate in technical communication from the University of Massachusetts.

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