Author Topic: Cellist of Sarajevo (The) - November Book Club Online  (Read 21498 times)

Frybabe

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« Reply #160 on: November 21, 2015, 06:27:45 AM »
The Book Club Online is  the oldest  book club on the Internet, begun in 1996, open to everyone.  We offer cordial discussions of one book a month,  24/7 and  enjoy the company of readers from all over the world.  Everyone is welcome.

November Book Club Online

The Cellist of Sarajevo
by Steven Galloway


Our selection for November is an award-winning novel that explores the dilemmas of ordinary people caught in the crises of war and examines the healing power of art.

"In this beautiful and unforgettable novel, Steven Galloway has taken an extraordinary, imaginative leap to create a story that speaks powerfully to the dignity and generosity of the human spirit under extraordinary duress.." -
~ Cellist of Sarajevo Website.

Discussion Schedule
November 1 - 2  The Cellist and Part One

November 3 - 9  Part Two through the section on Keenan ending with "he knows he has a long way to before he is home again." (p 106 in my copy)

November 10 - 15 Rest of Part Two

November 16 - 23  Part Three

November 24 - 27  Part Four



Questions for November 1-2: (The Cellist and Part One)

What do we learn about the city of Sarajevo in these sections?
What are your initial impressions of the characters that Steven Galloway has created: the Cellist? Arrow? Kenan? Dragan?
What is the main task/activity that is the focus for each of them in this story?
What are some ways that each of them, and other citizens, have been affected by the war?


Questions for November 3-9: (First half of Part Two - to p.106)
What are some more details we learn about Arrow, Dragan and Kenan? Who do they interact with and how?
What seems to be each of their approaches or ways of dealing with the situation they are in?
What are some of the things that they say or we're told that they are thinking that made a special impression on you?
What words, metaphors, descriptions, do you think the author uses to effectively make his points?
Can you personally relate to anything in any of the characters or their situations?


Questions for November 10 - 15: (Second half of Part Two - from p.107 to end of Part Two)
In the beginning of the chapter on Dragan, we learn what he thinks motivates the cellist. Do you agree?
A lot happens to and around Dragan, Arrow and Keenan in the latter pages of Part Two. What actions stand out for you?
What themes do you notice in Part Two?


Questions for November 16 -: (Part Three)
In part Three, Dragan, Arrow and Keenan seem to undergo changes in their outlook. What do you notice about them?
What sentences in this part of the book seem especially important?



Questions for Part Four
How do the stories of the main characters seem to resolve in this last part? Were you surprised by any of their actions?
What are some of your thoughts and feelings as you reflect on this novel?


LINKS

Background on the Adagio in G-Minor, including an audio file.

Image of Vedran, Smailovic, Cello player in the partially destroyed National Library in Sarajevo, 1992.

Sarajevo Survival Map 1992-96
 

Discussion Leader:  Marcie





I went to my first ever F2F book discussion on Thursday for All Quiet on the Western Front. Unfortunately, only the moderator and I were there. What a shame. She had also read Cellist of Sarajevo, so we were able to explore some of the similarities of the emotional costs of being bombarded and shot at. And, I found out the All Quiet on the Western Front is being made into a movie for release next November.

The discussion moderator's first question was unanswerable. What do you do if you are strongly committed to non-violence, but the other party is just as committed to violent means to achieve their objective? It is a true conundrum for her because, as she explained, she is essentially a pacifist having been raised in a pacifist family.

I enjoyed the discussion and the happy (?) coincidence of reading both Cellist and All Quiet at the same time. It gave me a greater "appreciation" for the trauma that people of through in war as well as those who are subjected to terrorist attacks. 


Ella Gibbons

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #161 on: November 21, 2015, 05:08:52 PM »
The way it was - from the BBCTV. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kuCAOlQSEA

There are ethnic groups involved here and I am not sure I have them correct in my mind.  The Serbs, the Croats and the Muslims??



Ella Gibbons

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #162 on: November 21, 2015, 05:11:01 PM »
The book doesn't say, but have we decided who are the people on the hills and who are the people in the valley and why is it happening?

Maybe it's just my forgetful mind.

marcie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #163 on: November 21, 2015, 10:44:00 PM »
Frybabe, it's too bad that there were only two of you to talk about the book but that was lucky that you could compare both books. I think that comparisons are a great way to learn more about something.

What a moving documentary, Ella. It makes me realize again that no one predicted that the siege would last so long.

I think that the author was trying to make a universal statement about the effects of war and how music and the arts could make a difference in providing hope so he didn't give a lot of details about who was fighting who.

I found some details in wikipedia.

After Bosnia and Herzegovina had declared independence from Yugoslavia, the Bosnian Serbs—whose strategic goal was to create a new Bosnian Serb state of Republika Srpska (RS) that would include parts of Bosnian territory—encircled Sarajevo (the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina),with a siege force. The Bosnian government defense forces (ARBiH) inside the besieged city were poorly equipped and unable to break the siege.

The besieged population was comprised of not only Bosniaks and Croats, but also Serbs that had remained in the town and who were killed by fire from the besieging Bosnian Serb Army forces.

On 18 November 1990, the first multi-party parliamentary elections were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina (with a 2nd round on 25 November), which resulted in a national assembly dominated by three ethnically based parties, which had formed a loose coalition to oust the communists from power.[18] Croatia and Slovenia's subsequent declarations of independence and the warfare that ensued placed Bosnia and Herzegovina and its three constituent peoples in an awkward position. A significant split soon developed on the issue of whether to stay with the Yugoslav federation (overwhelmingly favored among Serbs) or to seek independence (overwhelmingly favored among Bosniaks and Croats).

The Serb members of parliament, consisting mainly of Serb Democratic Party members, abandoned the central parliament in Sarajevo, and formed the Assembly of the Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 24 October 1991, which marked the end of the tri-ethnic coalition that governed after the elections in 1990. This Assembly established the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 9 January 1992, which became the Republika Srpska in August 1992.

 Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence on 3 March 1992. Following a period of escalating tensions the opening shots in the incipient Bosnian conflict were fired when Serb paramilitary forces attacked Bosnian Croat villages.

Ella Gibbons

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #164 on: November 22, 2015, 09:55:52 AM »
"I think that the author was trying to make a universal statement about the effects of war and how music and the arts could make a difference in providing hope so he didn't give a lot of details about who was fighting who" - Marcie

Yes, I agree, but, being a practical person, a nonfiction reader, I have to  have details.  This book is rather "romantic" about war, but it is actually a bloody, awful, terrible, soul-searing event in the life of every soldier involved.  Do you think that is portrayed in the book?


BarbStAubrey

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #165 on: November 22, 2015, 12:56:21 PM »
Ella I think the story is more universal than how soldiers experience war - I think it is more about how the average person 'walks' so to speak the road to accepting reality and how they no longer try to hang onto what was which may even include a life surrounded by a family no longer living with you.

I think it shows the various ways we behave when all we knew and loved is taken so that the emphasis in this story is not on the war but the affects of war on the destruction of a city and the changes the citizens experience as they attempt to hold on to their humanity with all they knew and loved, day by day, inch by inch, destroyed.

Rather than a story about the destruction of the human body as a soldier or as a civilian I see it more as the gradual destruction of the people's psyche and what pulls them back to retain their humanity. This story is not about the war, it is about the affects of war on the population, soldier or civilian. Not the stuff of history books, is it.

marcie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #166 on: November 22, 2015, 10:24:00 PM »
I admire your questioning mind, Ella. Good questions. As Barb says, it seems to me that the emphasis in this book is on the psychological and moral effects of war. You might be right, Ella. Maybe that's not enough --without more of the physical details-- to make the war believable to the reader. Is that what you mean by characterizing the book's viewpoint as "romantic"? Does anyone else have thoughts about this.

bellamarie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #167 on: November 23, 2015, 10:22:20 PM »
I wholeheartedly agree with you Barb.  It was not about the war, it was about how war affects people, their minds, their everyday lives, their human stories, and how music and art can soothe, comfort and bring hope in a hopeless situation.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

PatH

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #168 on: November 24, 2015, 12:36:39 PM »
Barb, Marcie, and Bellamarie, the three of you have summed up what I feel the book is about much better than I could.

marcie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #169 on: November 24, 2015, 09:30:32 PM »
Thanks, Bellamarie and Pat.

We'll leave the discussion open for a few days for any thoughts about any aspects of the book. I appreciate everyone's participation. I always learn more about the book when I read it with some of you on SeniorLearn and I think of things I wouldn't on my own. I appreciate that and each of you!

Ella Gibbons

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #170 on: November 25, 2015, 10:03:17 AM »
Music and art?  Did you watch the video  I posted on the 21st?  Where was the music - the art - the hope?  That was real and the truth, not for books.

I know a book probably wouldn't sell if it was about reality, would it?

PatH

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #171 on: November 25, 2015, 11:57:03 AM »

I know a book probably wouldn't sell if it was about reality, would it?

Well, All Quiet on the Western Front is still selling after 87years.

PatH

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #172 on: November 25, 2015, 12:21:18 PM »
But that's a good question you raise, Ella.  What role does or should reality play in fiction?  This book isn't  totally realistic; Arrow especially is more aware of exactly what her targets are thinking than she could be.  But exaggeration can point out truth.  The cellist really DID play, and people really DID stop and listen to him, and even though a TV cameraman didn't ask them about it that doesn't mean the music didn't give some people a source of strength and hope.

Of course science fiction, when it wants to be serious, is adept at altering reality to show truths about humanity.

Anyonr, how much reality do you want in your fiction?

Frybabe

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #173 on: November 25, 2015, 01:05:42 PM »
I've been known to fact check authors for accuracy regarding historical events or cultural matters. On the whole, I don't like historical novels that put fictional words into the mouths of real people.

Regarding Scifi, I agree PatH. On another note one of the things I like about The Martian is that Andy Weir went out of his way to fact check his science and technology while writing the book. There is very little in the book that already is known, has been done, or can be done with what we know now.

Vedran Smailović has been an inspiration to more than Steven Galloway. Here is one:
http://myhero.com/hero.asp?hero=vedrans

marcie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #174 on: November 25, 2015, 11:58:06 PM »
Ella, likely there are soldiers and civilians who have been involved in a war who would agree with you (if I'm understanding your reference to the "reality" of war) ; that even if the novel is hopeful it should depict more of the physicality of war in order to be true to the war experience.

The characters did seem somewhat removed from their experience but I'm assuming that is part of the psychological damage caused by the years of being under siege and in danger. It all seemed "unreal" to them; and they no longer were the same persons they were at the start.

Pat and Frybabe, I appreciate your thoughts about the science fiction genre. I remember the original Star Trek series and so many of the "statements" that were made in episodes that were a commentary on things going on in our then current society but set in other galaxies and future alien civilizations.

BarbStAubrey

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #175 on: November 28, 2015, 01:49:53 AM »
Here is a coming attraction to ;) peek your excitement for December's first discussion starting next Tuesday December 1, The Adventures of Pinocchio

https://vimeo.com/43229716

bellamarie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #176 on: November 28, 2015, 10:19:11 AM »
Well my daughter and son in law left this morning to return to their home in Florida after spending five glorious days with us for Thanksgiving.  I am a bit sad to see them leave, but plan to visit them in the Spring.  Now back to the book in wrapping it up.

PatH., 
Quote
Anyone, how much reality do you want in your fiction?

I do like accuracy in locations, events, time frames, and things that refer to real life existence in my fictional books.  The characters unless they are depicting a real life one, I don't expect to fit into my narrative, but enjoy seeing them from the author's creative mind.  I felt Gallaway did a good job in giving us just enough accurate facts to imagine what it was like to be under siege by the soldiers in the hills.  For me I did not feel the author was covering the war per say, but the human devastation war brings to a community, their homes, culture, arts, buildings, personal minds and families.

Again, I want to thank Marcie and all of you who participated in the discussion.  It was a difficult book for me to enjoy because I found it so depressing, but with the help of all of you, I was able to see it through.

So, on to Pinocchio!   
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Ella Gibbons

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #177 on: November 28, 2015, 12:56:50 PM »
Thanks, Marcie, for bringing this book to us for discussion.  I enjoyed the book for a number of reasons and gave it to my daughter who actually was in a war in the Persian Gulf.  She was a nurse in the Army Reserve Nurse Corp and they were called up.  I know she and the other nurses were very frightened of the scuds going overhead; they set up tents in the desert for hospital units but few US soldiers were injured.  However, they treated POW's until the war was over.

marcie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #178 on: November 29, 2015, 05:28:07 PM »
Thanks for your thoughts, Bellamarie and Ella. Ella, you must be very proud of your daughter. It was actually your mention of the book that led me to choose it for this month's discussion. I wouldn't have read it otherwise. I appreciate the leads to books that I find on SeniorLearn.

BarbStAubrey

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #179 on: November 29, 2015, 06:04:15 PM »
Marcie I am so glad you chose this book to bring to us - the timing was perfect but more - this is a book I cannot get out of my mind and find myself re-reading bits and pieces over and over - So many meaningful lines in this story... thanks...

marcie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #180 on: November 29, 2015, 10:33:25 PM »
Thanks, Barbara. I appreciate all that you brought to the discussion.

bellamarie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #181 on: December 01, 2015, 09:04:56 AM »
Ella, Please thank your daughter for me for her brave service to our country.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

PatH

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #182 on: December 02, 2015, 11:39:02 AM »
I've been traveling, and it's been hard to post,so I'm glad the discussion is still open.

Marcie found the fact that the author thinks of the book as a trio sonata.  To me, it's a slightly different musical form--a rondo.  In a rondo, the main theme is played, then a different section, then back to the main theme, a second different stretch, back to the main theme, alternating back and forth several more times, finally ending with the main theme.

Arrow is the main theme here. She shows the most intense, focussed, and pared-down version of the struggle all the characters are having, and we start and end with her.  She does manage to pull back from dehumanization and keep her own identity.  It will cost her her life, but she thinkt it's a fair trade.

BarbStAubrey

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #183 on: December 02, 2015, 12:16:48 PM »
Beautiful Pat - yes, I can see it... thanks.

marcie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #184 on: December 02, 2015, 10:33:23 PM »
Pat, I appreciate your knowledge of music. A rondo makes sense to me in the context of the book, as you've explained it. I appreciate too the way you've characterized Arrow. You're right. She keeps her identity; she won't become the killer the military wants her to be. She speaks her real name as she is shot.

PatH

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #185 on: December 03, 2015, 10:12:29 AM »
This has been an amazing discussion.  Marcie, you did a wonderful job of finding information to help un understand the book, and directing our attention to things thta needed talking about.

And everyone contributed so much.  Different approaces, different sides of the story.  It was truly a conversation in the best sense of the word.

Thank you, everyone.

marcie

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Re: The Cellist of Sarajevo - November Book Club Online
« Reply #186 on: December 03, 2015, 11:06:25 AM »
Yes, an enlightening conversation. Thanks, Pat and everyone! We'll likely archive this discussion later today.