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By the Chapter, Day 5 | The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

April 17, 2009

cellistofsarajevo1Welcome to By the Chapter. This week’s featured book is The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. I’d like to thank Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves for sharing hosting duties with me this week.

***

If you’re not familiar with The Cellist of Sarajevo here’s a little background on the book from Amazon:
Canadian Galloway (Ascension) delivers a tense and haunting novel following four people trying to survive war-torn Sarajevo. After a mortar attack kills 22 people waiting in line to buy bread, an unnamed cellist vows to play at the point of impact for 22 days. Meanwhile, Arrow, a young woman sniper, picks off soldiers; Kenan makes a dangerous trek to get water for his family; and Dragan, who sent his wife and son out of the city at the start of the war, works at a bakery and trades bread in exchange for shelter. Arrow’s assigned to protect the cellist, but when she’s eventually ordered to commit a different kind of killing, she must decide who she is and why she kills. Dragan believes he can protect himself through isolation, but that changes when he runs into a friend of his wife’s attempting to cross a street targeted by snipers. Kenan is repeatedly challenged by his fear and a cantankerous neighbor. All the while, the cellist continues to play. With wonderfully drawn characters and a stripped-down narrative, Galloway brings to life a distant conflict.

***

This story is based around true events, The Siege of Sarajevo.

My co-host Elizabeth said it best, “this book is mesmerizing”. I was immediately drawn into this wonderfully crafted story surrounding the siege of Sarajevo. The author does a superb job of painting the pain of war on the ordinary citizen. It is a roller coaster ride of emotional intensity. This story is driven not by page turning action but stunning sequences written in wrenching prose. This book gets high marks from me as a recommended read. It’s one of those books that I occasionally come across that I want share right and then with whoever is nearest to me. I want to talk about what I’m reading. Usually my reading is a solitary endeavor and that’s why I’ve enjoyed reading The Cellist of Sarajevo with Elizabeth and others this week. It’s given me the opportunity to share my thoughts about this exceptional book. It will, when I eventually get around to it, make my favorites list.

Because I want to do justice to this story I’ve decided to let the characters speak for themselves. I’ve gone back and picked out selected passages for each giving a voice to small pieces of their lives. If you enjoy what you read here then this is a book that will satisfy the yearning hunger of your reading soul.

Kenan
“Once he’s in the hall, he sits down on the steps and presses his forehead to his knees. He doesn’t want to go out. He doesn’t want to have to walk through the streets of his city and look at the buildings and with every step be afraid that he’s about to be killed. But he has no choice. He knows that if he wants to be one of the people who rebuild the city, one of the people who have the right even to speak about how Sarajevo should repair itself, then he has to go outside and face the men on the hills. His family needs water, and he will get it for them. The city is full of people doing the same as he is, and they all find a way to continue with life. They’re not cowards, and they’re not heroes.”

“Today is the last cellist will play. Everyone who died in the street while waiting for bread will be accounted for. Kenan knows no one will pay for the people who died at the brewery, or those who were shot crossing the street, or any of the other victims of countless attacks. It would take an army of cellists. But he’s heard what there was to hear. It was enough.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Kenan chapter, Kindle sections 2645-2657]

Dragan
“There is no way to tell which version of the lie is the truth. Is the real Sarajevo the one where people were happy, treated each other well, lived without conflict? Or is the real Sarajevo the one he sees today, where people are trying to kill each other, where bullets fly down from the hills and the buildings crumble to the ground? Dragan can only ask the question. He doesn’t think there’s any way to know for sure.”

“He knows which lie he will tell himself. The city he lives in is full of people who will someday go back to treating each other like humans. The war will end, and when it’s looked back upon it will be with regret, not with fond memories of faded glory. In the meantime, he will continue to walk the streets. Streets that will not have dead and discarded bodies lying in them. 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.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Dragan chapter, Kindle sections 2662-2679]

Arrow
“In the Second World War, Vraca was a place where the Nazis tortured and killed those who resisted them. The names of the dead are carved on the steps, but at the time few fighters used their real names. They took new names that said more about them than any boastful story told by drunks in a bar, names that defied the governments who later tried to twist their deeds into propaganda. It’s said they took these new names so their families wouldn’t be in danger, so they could slip in and out of two lives. But Arrow believes they took these names so they could separate themselves from what they had to do, so that the person who fought and killed could someday be put away. To hate people because they hated her first, and then to hate them because of what they’ve done to her, has created a desire to separate the part of her that will fight back, that will enjoy fighting back, from the part that never wanted to fight in the first place. Using her real name would make her no different from the men she kills. It would be a death greater than the end of her life.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Arrow Chapter, Kindle sections 133-149]

“She hears one of them take a step back, knows he’s about to kick in the door. She closes her eyes, recalls the notes she heard only yesterday, a melody that is no longer there but feels very close. Her lips move, and a moment before the door splinters off its hinges she says, her voice strong and quiet, ‘My name is Alisa’.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Arrow chapter, Kindle sections 2763-69]

The Cellist
“He played for twenty-two days, just as he said he would. Every day at four o’clock in the afternoon, regardless of how much fighting was going on around him. Some days he had an audience. Other days there was so much shelling that no one in their right mind would linger in the street. It didn’t appear to make any difference to him. He always played exactly the same way.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Arrow chapter, Kindle section 2723-29]

“Arrow closed her eyes, and when she opened them the music was over. In the street, the cellist sat on his stool for a very long time. He was crying. His head leaned forward and a few strands of inky hair fell across his brow. One hand moved to cover his face while the other cradled the body of the cello. After a while he stood up, and he walked over to the pile of flowers that had been steadily growing since the day the mortar fell. He looked at it for a while, and then dropped his bow into the pile. No one on the street moved. They held their breath, waiting for him to say something. But the cellist didn’t speak. There was nothing left for him to say.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Arrow chapter, Kindle section 2740-46]

***

If you’ve read, or are currently reading, The Cellist of Sarajevo please share your thoughts with us.

***
This week’s reading scheduling:
Monday: The Printed Page
Tuesday: Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves
Wednesday: The Printed Page
Thursday: Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves
Friday: The Printed Page/Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves

***

flyingbooks1

By the Chapter, Day 5 | The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

April 17, 2009

cellistofsarajevo1Welcome to By the Chapter. This week’s featured book is The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. I’d like to thank Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves for sharing hosting duties with me this week.

***

If you’re not familiar with The Cellist of Sarajevo here’s a little background on the book from Amazon:
Canadian Galloway (Ascension) delivers a tense and haunting novel following four people trying to survive war-torn Sarajevo. After a mortar attack kills 22 people waiting in line to buy bread, an unnamed cellist vows to play at the point of impact for 22 days. Meanwhile, Arrow, a young woman sniper, picks off soldiers; Kenan makes a dangerous trek to get water for his family; and Dragan, who sent his wife and son out of the city at the start of the war, works at a bakery and trades bread in exchange for shelter. Arrow’s assigned to protect the cellist, but when she’s eventually ordered to commit a different kind of killing, she must decide who she is and why she kills. Dragan believes he can protect himself through isolation, but that changes when he runs into a friend of his wife’s attempting to cross a street targeted by snipers. Kenan is repeatedly challenged by his fear and a cantankerous neighbor. All the while, the cellist continues to play. With wonderfully drawn characters and a stripped-down narrative, Galloway brings to life a distant conflict.

***

This story is based around true events, The Siege of Sarajevo.

My co-host Elizabeth said it best, “this book is mesmerizing”. I was immediately drawn into this wonderfully crafted story surrounding the siege of Sarajevo. The author does a superb job of painting the pain of war on the ordinary citizen. It is a roller coaster ride of emotional intensity. This story is driven not by page turning action but stunning sequences written in wrenching prose. This book gets high marks from me as a recommended read. It’s one of those books that I occasionally come across that I want share right and then with whoever is nearest to me. I want to talk about what I’m reading. Usually my reading is a solitary endeavor and that’s why I’ve enjoyed reading The Cellist of Sarajevo with Elizabeth and others this week. It’s given me the opportunity to share my thoughts about this exceptional book. It will, when I eventually get around to it, make my favorites list.

Because I want to do justice to this story I’ve decided to let the characters speak for themselves. I’ve gone back and picked out selected passages for each giving a voice to small pieces of their lives. If you enjoy what you read here then this is a book that will satisfy the yearning hunger of your reading soul.

Kenan
“Once he’s in the hall, he sits down on the steps and presses his forehead to his knees. He doesn’t want to go out. He doesn’t want to have to walk through the streets of his city and look at the buildings and with every step be afraid that he’s about to be killed. But he has no choice. He knows that if he wants to be one of the people who rebuild the city, one of the people who have the right even to speak about how Sarajevo should repair itself, then he has to go outside and face the men on the hills. His family needs water, and he will get it for them. The city is full of people doing the same as he is, and they all find a way to continue with life. They’re not cowards, and they’re not heroes.”

“Today is the last cellist will play. Everyone who died in the street while waiting for bread will be accounted for. Kenan knows no one will pay for the people who died at the brewery, or those who were shot crossing the street, or any of the other victims of countless attacks. It would take an army of cellists. But he’s heard what there was to hear. It was enough.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Kenan chapter, Kindle sections 2645-2657]

Dragan
“There is no way to tell which version of the lie is the truth. Is the real Sarajevo the one where people were happy, treated each other well, lived without conflict? Or is the real Sarajevo the one he sees today, where people are trying to kill each other, where bullets fly down from the hills and the buildings crumble to the ground? Dragan can only ask the question. He doesn’t think there’s any way to know for sure.”

“He knows which lie he will tell himself. The city he lives in is full of people who will someday go back to treating each other like humans. The war will end, and when it’s looked back upon it will be with regret, not with fond memories of faded glory. In the meantime, he will continue to walk the streets. Streets that will not have dead and discarded bodies lying in them. 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.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Dragan chapter, Kindle sections 2662-2679]

Arrow
“In the Second World War, Vraca was a place where the Nazis tortured and killed those who resisted them. The names of the dead are carved on the steps, but at the time few fighters used their real names. They took new names that said more about them than any boastful story told by drunks in a bar, names that defied the governments who later tried to twist their deeds into propaganda. It’s said they took these new names so their families wouldn’t be in danger, so they could slip in and out of two lives. But Arrow believes they took these names so they could separate themselves from what they had to do, so that the person who fought and killed could someday be put away. To hate people because they hated her first, and then to hate them because of what they’ve done to her, has created a desire to separate the part of her that will fight back, that will enjoy fighting back, from the part that never wanted to fight in the first place. Using her real name would make her no different from the men she kills. It would be a death greater than the end of her life.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Arrow Chapter, Kindle sections 133-149]

“She hears one of them take a step back, knows he’s about to kick in the door. She closes her eyes, recalls the notes she heard only yesterday, a melody that is no longer there but feels very close. Her lips move, and a moment before the door splinters off its hinges she says, her voice strong and quiet, ‘My name is Alisa’.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Arrow chapter, Kindle sections 2763-69]

The Cellist
“He played for twenty-two days, just as he said he would. Every day at four o’clock in the afternoon, regardless of how much fighting was going on around him. Some days he had an audience. Other days there was so much shelling that no one in their right mind would linger in the street. It didn’t appear to make any difference to him. He always played exactly the same way.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Arrow chapter, Kindle section 2723-29]

“Arrow closed her eyes, and when she opened them the music was over. In the street, the cellist sat on his stool for a very long time. He was crying. His head leaned forward and a few strands of inky hair fell across his brow. One hand moved to cover his face while the other cradled the body of the cello. After a while he stood up, and he walked over to the pile of flowers that had been steadily growing since the day the mortar fell. He looked at it for a while, and then dropped his bow into the pile. No one on the street moved. They held their breath, waiting for him to say something. But the cellist didn’t speak. There was nothing left for him to say.” [The Cellist of Sarajevo, Arrow chapter, Kindle section 2740-46]

***

If you’ve read, or are currently reading, The Cellist of Sarajevo please share your thoughts with us.

***
This week’s reading scheduling:
Monday: The Printed Page
Tuesday: Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves
Wednesday: The Printed Page
Thursday: Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves
Friday: The Printed Page/Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves

***

flyingbooks1

By the Chapter, Day 4 | The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

April 16, 2009

cellistofsarajevo1This week’s featured book is The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.

Follow today’s discussion over at Elizabeth’s blog, As usual, I need more bookshelves

***

This week’s reading scheduling:
This week’s reading scheduling:
Monday: The Printed Page
Tuesday: Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves
Wednesday: The Printed Page
Thursday: Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves
Friday: The Printed Page/Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves

***

If you’ve read, or are currently reading, The Cellist of Sarajevo, please stop by and share your thoughts with us.

***


flyingbooks1

By the Chapter, Day 4 | The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

April 16, 2009

cellistofsarajevo1This week’s featured book is The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.

Follow today’s discussion over at Elizabeth’s blog, As usual, I need more bookshelves

***

This week’s reading scheduling:
This week’s reading scheduling:
Monday: The Printed Page
Tuesday: Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves
Wednesday: The Printed Page
Thursday: Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves
Friday: The Printed Page/Elizabeth from As usual, I need more bookshelves

***

If you’ve read, or are currently reading, The Cellist of Sarajevo, please stop by and share your thoughts with us.

***


flyingbooks1

Pondering the pages ~ The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose

April 15, 2009

theunlikelydiscipleSo last night I finished The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose. It was enlightening, informative, entertaining and in places eye popping and mind boggling. For being a young man 19 years of age and experiencing college in two vastly different environments I thought he did a fabulous job of comparing the differences and the sameness among students and university life at both colleges. I thought it was balanced not leaning too much one direction or another. Kevin’s Quaker, democratic, liberal background is so vastly different from his soon to be friends that I wasn’t sure how well he’d adapt to living in a strictly controlled, structured, totally religious environment. He came through with flying colors. Along the way he learned some valuable life lessons. And really isn’t that what college is about – the experience.

How does a student from one of the most liberal universities, Brown (university link) end up at one of the most conservative, Liberty (university link)? Well for Kevin it started with a research trip to Thomas Road Baptist Church. Thomas Road Baptist Church and environs were conceived of and brought to life by the late Reverend Jerry Falwell. Being a budding journalist and inquisitive young man his interest is piqued by this weekend trip to God’s country. “These days, it seems like all my college friends talk about is study abroad, the modern rite of passage in which students spend a semester in Paris, Barcelona, Munich or any of the other first- world cities with low minimum drinking ages. The appeal of these programs – at least from a school’s perspective – is that experiencing a foreign culture firsthand makes us more informed global citizens. But what about American citizens? Here, right in my time zone, was a culture more foreign to me than any European capital, and these foreigners vote in my elections! So why not do a domestic study abroad? If I enrolled at Liberty for semester, I’d get to take the same classes, attend the same church services, and live under the same rules as my evangelical peers. And maybe I’d be able to use what I found to help bridge our country’s God Divide, or at least to understand it better.” [The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose, pages 10-11].

So we join Kevin on his journey through “Bible Boot Camp” where it’s all about “training champions for Christ”™. His semester isn’t much different from that of the average college student: he attends class, goes to study group, takes exams, participates in extracurricular activities, he shares a room with two other guys, and occasionally dates. But he also sings in the church choir, goes to religious services several times a week, learns to pray and attends pray groups, is mentored by a campus religious leader. It’s typical in so many ways yet different in a hundred others. Boys will be boys and they do boy things. (My personal favorites are the band of renegades who hang out in Jersey Joey’s room breaking rules while trying to reconcile the life they lead with the Liberty way.) They tease each other, rough house, hang out, watch R-rated movies, drink, smoke, talk about, and eye, the girls, surf Facebook and Myspace. What won’t happen at most universities is punishment. And these types of activities at Liberty are heavily regulated along with curfews, dress codes,  and public displays of affection. They are punishable by reprimands, fines and community service. In some cases expulsion.

It’s a roller coaster of emotions. It’ll challenge what you know, or think you know. Fact versus fiction. It’ll test you in ways you never imagined. It even might put you up against a wall or back you into a corner. Biases and prejudices will get called out. Be careful how and who you judge. You meet the hard liners, the liberals, and those straddling the middle road between the two. You’re greeted by ordinary, everyday young people who struggle with the same issues as their secular counterparts – belonging, dating, sex, grades, professors, gossip, parental control, sibling  rivalry.

While Kevin doesn’t buy into everything he was exposed to over that four month period he did come to some revelations of his own. It changed him in ways he never anticipated. It gave him some grounding. He has since returned to Brown and accumulated back into life there but carries with him bits and pieces of his Liberty experience.

It’s culture shock 101. All of my understanding of Evangelicalism before this has been through various modern media outlets. If you’re looking for some real, been there, done that, insight into the world of Evangelical Christians and what makes the youth of this religion tick pick up The Unlikely Disciple. I wasn’t disappointed and I don’t think you will be either.

Take a peek inside:

***

A good book should leave you…slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.
~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

***

Cover Attraction ~ April 15th | Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic by Suzanne Weyn

April 15, 2009

I’m a very visual person and love beautiful, or interesting, cover art. It entices, and invites, me to stop and take a peek instead of walking right on by. This week’s Cover Attraction is:

Title: Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic
Author: Suzanne Weyn
Release date: Today
distantwaves1

From the author’s website:
Plenty of fiction has been set aboard the Titanic, but Weyn’s take on the infamous disaster is wholly original. For starters, the doomed ocean liner doesn’t appear until the book is two-thirds finished. Instead of using the tragedy as a plot engine, Weyn employs it as but one of the historical forces she juggles to propel her unusual story. Most central is the turn-of-the-century spiritualist movement: Jane is one of five daughters born to a well-known spirit medium, and although she wants to believe in the practices of her mother—and particularly her eerie twin sisters—she finds herself constantly struggling at the intersection of faith and science. The latter camp is represented by real-life scientist Nikola Tesla; his inventions indirectly lead to Jane meeting her true love (and, in a neat bit of historical revisionism, even have something to do with the Titanic’s fate). Various other luminaries drift in and out of the story, and only occasionally do their appearances feel forced. The ending, too, requires a leap of faith some readers may not be willing to take, but the sweeping action, mysticism, and romance should ensure that most will gladly take the plunge. A wonderful author’s note clearly sifts fact from fiction. –Booklist, starred review

One word: haunting

♦♦♦

What’s your favorite cover attraction this week? Don’t forget to leave a link to your Cover Attraction post.

Cover Attraction ~ April 15th | Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic by Suzanne Weyn

April 15, 2009

I’m a very visual person and love beautiful, or interesting, cover art. It entices, and invites, me to stop and take a peek instead of walking right on by. This week’s Cover Attraction is:

Title: Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic
Author: Suzanne Weyn
Release date: Today
distantwaves1

From the author’s website:
Plenty of fiction has been set aboard the Titanic, but Weyn’s take on the infamous disaster is wholly original. For starters, the doomed ocean liner doesn’t appear until the book is two-thirds finished. Instead of using the tragedy as a plot engine, Weyn employs it as but one of the historical forces she juggles to propel her unusual story. Most central is the turn-of-the-century spiritualist movement: Jane is one of five daughters born to a well-known spirit medium, and although she wants to believe in the practices of her mother—and particularly her eerie twin sisters—she finds herself constantly struggling at the intersection of faith and science. The latter camp is represented by real-life scientist Nikola Tesla; his inventions indirectly lead to Jane meeting her true love (and, in a neat bit of historical revisionism, even have something to do with the Titanic’s fate). Various other luminaries drift in and out of the story, and only occasionally do their appearances feel forced. The ending, too, requires a leap of faith some readers may not be willing to take, but the sweeping action, mysticism, and romance should ensure that most will gladly take the plunge. A wonderful author’s note clearly sifts fact from fiction. –Booklist, starred review

One word: haunting

♦♦♦

What’s your favorite cover attraction this week? Don’t forget to leave a link to your Cover Attraction post.