Wednesday, November 18, 2009

December 2009 - The Cellist of Sarajevo

Discussion Questions

  • General impressions. Did you like the book? Why or why not?
  • The book was inspired by the actions of cellist Vedran Smailovic who, for 22 days, played at the site where mortar shells killed 22 people. Though Galloway centered his book on this man, he devotes very little time to the character development of the cellist. Why do you think that is? And how does Galloway convince you to empathize with and care for the musician?
  • The book centers on 4 primary characters - the cellist, Arrow, Kenan, and Dragan. As the book progresses, we experience what it is like to survive a city under siege. How effective is Galloway in conveying the emotional impact of war. What particular scene resonated most strongly with you?
  • What is involved in day-to-day living? How would you fare under these same conditions—and what would be your greatest challenges?
  • Each chapter in the novel is told through the lens of one of the four main characters in the story. How does this strategy color our reading? How might our experience be different if told in first person? If it were told in a more journalistic way?
  • How do each of the narrators view their fellow citizens? How do they each look upon their struggles, choices, and their attitudes? What makes them not give up on each other? Does Kenan’s classification of the “three types of people” (144) ring true to you? Which do you think you might be?
  • What are the goals of “the men on the hill”? What exactly is it they are trying to destroy? The author does not identify them by name or ethnicity. What might he be suggesting by this? What do they come to represent for the main characters—and what separates them from Arrow?
  • Why does Dragan take such drastic measures to prevent the dead man’s body from being filmed by the journalist? What does the author suggest through this as a lesson for the living? What are we to do to prevent the horror of war from becoming commonplace, something to tune our televisions out from?
  • Each of the four main characters acted as they did to try and exert control over the uncontrollable. Name something each did. What is something you do when you begin to feel overwhelmed?
  • Dragan sent away his wife and child, but has no desire to leave the city himself, because "anywhere else he would be homeless." What is he saying? Whould you feel this way? Why or why not? How does this relate to the challenges immigrants face in a new country?
  • What are the goals of “the men on the hill”? What exactly is it they are trying to destroy, especially by sending a sniper to kill the cellist?
  • Why do you think the sniper avoids taking his shot at the cellist - especially when he has ample opportunity?
  • At the end of the book, each character’s experience of the cellist’s performance has changed how they deal with the life around them. In what way does each character change? Has there been a time in your life when something has guided or inspired you to make a change?
  • Were you surprised by Arrow's final act of protest? Do you think that she was ultimately able to reclaim herself. her identity?
  • “If the city is to die, it will be because of the people in the city, not the men in the hills.” What was the author telling us?
  • Meeting Details: we meet at 7:30PM on Thursday, December 17th at Thea's house

    Menu: "A Sweet Night Out on the Streets of Sarajevo"
    Baked apples - Chandra
    Chocolate torte - Karen
    Baklava - Jen
    Ice cream and Coffee/Tea/Drinks- Thea

    Book Club Kit.... Kate picked up the book club kit from the Hamilton Library for this month - Thanks Kate! I think that we passed out books at the last meeting for whoever is interested, but let me know if you didn't get a copy yet. There are several interesting articles and interviews included with the kit and I will add the links here for anyone interested in a little extra background reading. Reading about the Seige of Sarajevo really helps you understand the events of the book...

    This is an interesting summary of events:

    1 comment:

    1. I will provide the extra creamy vanilla ice cream, and drinks.


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