Thursday, September 04, 2008
The Cellist of Sarajevo
This book calls to mind another recent novel about a fictionalized historical cellist, "The Spanish Bow", by Andromeda Romano-Lax. Andromeda (I love that name), who herself is a cellist, presents an enthralling story about a cellist, loosely based on the life and times of Pablo Casals. Unlike the cellist in Galloway's book who is not really the main character in the story, the cellist in "The Spanish Bow" is the focus of the novel, and we read about his life from the time as a young child he receives "the bow" from his absent father until he ultimately becomes one of the most celebrated cellists of his time.
It seems, as I watch way too much television for my own good, that more and more often one of the guest characters in the various series (frequently a child) is studying the cello. It seems to be a fad these days. A few recent movies present cellists as a main character [including "The Soloist", based on the book by Steve Lopez, which hasn't yet been released]. The depictions on TV are fleeting, almost superfluous. The movies are a little more engrossing, but I tend to get distracted watching the actor's simulated playing.
I much prefer to read about cellists. So from this fan: thank you, Andromeda Romano-Lax; thank you, Steven Galloway; thank you, Steve Lopez.
Smailovic's anger is understandable. I can see how he feels the book's author has stolen his identity and is capitalizing off his story. I would have liked to see the author [or at least the publisher] reaching out to Smailovic before the book was published...
Nevertheless, the book itself stands on its own as a remarkable examination of an extraordinarily brutal episode in our recent history.
Perhaps some accommodation could be reached between the author and the cellist if the author were to use some of his anticipated profits to fund some sort of music program in Sarajevo...
If you extend your interest to upper string players too, an acquaintance of mine, Jessica Duchen, has recently published a neat book about Gypsy violin players called Hungarian Dances. I've started reading it and it's interesting. Though it will make you crave stew.
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