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Cellist of Sarajevo

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Cellist of Sarajevo, Vedran Smailovic, is wounded by words
A musician who risked his life playing a lament for 22 massacre victims is incensed by a novel capitalising on his act
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article4083037.ece


For 16 years Vedran Smailovic has been feted as the Cellist of Sarajevo, a musician who defied the city’s snipers by playing for 22 successive days in the rubble of an explosion that claimed the lives of 22 of his fellow Bosnians as they queued to buy bread.

Dressed in evening tails and perching on a fire-scorched chair, the photographs of his grieving face became a searing global image that made artists such as David Bowie, U2, Pavarotti and Sir Paul McCartney clamour to perform with him.



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Smailovic was content with his lot – until he discovered that a novel called The Cellist of Sarajevo was in the bookshops. Written by Steven Galloway, a 32-year-old Canadian who teaches creative writing in Vancouver, it has been hailed as a masterpiece.

Smailovic is so angry that he is threatening to stage another protest and burn his famous cello in the spot where he played Albinoni’s Adagio during those 22 days of mourning and protest in 1992.



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As Vedran Smailovic nurses his anger, troubled by the resurrected memories of a time of suffering and brooding over the money flowing into a young Canadian author’s bank account, Galloway is facing his own dilemma.

“I never thought I would be making an enemy of Vedran Smailovic. I thought he just might not like the book.”





Interesting exchange between cellist and author. Quite sad actually.


Anyone read the book?

It's coming yet for a' that, that Man to Man, the world o'er, shall brothers be for a' that. (Robert Burns)

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That's quite sad really. However I don't see how you can take action against an author who uses you as an inspiration for a book. If that was the case, there wouldn't be so many unauthorised biographies, let alone novels loosely based on biography.

It seems to me he just wants a slice of the money pie? Why not write his own book?

As for burning his cello, that would be stupid petulance and I have a feeling it might be bluffing in a fit of pique. A cello or a violin is a very personal thing - destroying it would be like cutting one of your arms off.



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I suppose its the sense of ownership - that its his story and he should be telling it if anyone - and that burning his cello is his way of expressing how deeply this has distressed him - becayuse as you say, a musician treasures his instrument so dearly.

i rememebr seeing a conversation between Julian Lloyd Webber and Yehudi Menuhin - they were talking about the physical closeness and love they felt for their instruments

JLW was sitting with his cello and he played a few notes and said - "when i play I feel the vibration here, physically within my body" and he breathed in deeply with his hand on his stomach

and Menuhin smiled softly and said " ah well...when I play, i feel it here..." and gently placed his hand on his heart.


You are right of course though - the story is in the public domain, and so is anyones to tell....

It's coming yet for a' that, that Man to Man, the world o'er, shall brothers be for a' that. (Robert Burns)

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I suppose if you've spent 22 days risking being shot you do tend to earn the right to decide how your own story is told. It does strike me that it seems a bit of an intrusion by the author to take this out of his hands.




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Bowker's cat wrote:I suppose if you've spent 22 days risking being shot you do tend to earn the right to decide how your own story is told. It does strike me that it seems a bit of an intrusion by the author to take this out of his hands.


I agree - morally yes. But it's no different to someone cashing in on a popular celebrity's life with an "unauthorised" biography; plus this is a novel albeit based on biography. Ultimately this book was the written effort of the author, and it is the author who is entitled to the reward from its success. Or conversely - there was no guarantee it was going to be a bestseller.

While I have sympathy for Smailovic feeling exploited, I think there is a wider principle at stake. If subjects have right of veto or are entitled to share of profits just because someone writes a book about them, then this has implications for the concept of freedom of expression. eg. Celebrities will be able to prevent 'unauthorised' biographies that paint them warts and all.



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whimsical oracle wrote:
Bowker's cat wrote:I suppose if you've spent 22 days risking being shot you do tend to earn the right to decide how your own story is told. It does strike me that it seems a bit of an intrusion by the author to take this out of his hands.


I agree - morally yes. But it's no different to someone cashing in on a popular celebrity's life with an "unauthorised" biography; plus this is a novel albeit based on biography. Ultimately this book was the written effort of the author, and it is the author who is entitled to the reward from its success. Or conversely - there was no guarantee it was going to be a bestseller.

While I have sympathy for Smailovic feeling exploited, I think there is a wider principle at stake. If subjects have right of veto or are entitled to share of profits just because someone writes a book about them, then this has implications for the concept of freedom of expression. eg. Celebrities will be able to prevent 'unauthorised' biographies that paint them warts and all.


Slight difference between 'bonking tales' and this chap though I'd say. However, probably the best course of action if you support the cellist is just not to buy the book.




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There was a similar thing recently with Andrew O' Hagan's novel which was obviously based on the life of Lena Zavaroni - about a child star , with an Italian sounding name and from the Isle of Bute, who went to London and developed an eating disorder...

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It caused quite lot of controversy and he went to great lengths in interviews to say it wasnt about Lena Zavaroni - it was a work of fiction...but he didnt even change the basic character details - even to the island the fictitious Maria Tambini character was from.

It's coming yet for a' that, that Man to Man, the world o'er, shall brothers be for a' that. (Robert Burns)

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Bowker's cat wrote:
whimsical oracle wrote:
Bowker's cat wrote:I suppose if you've spent 22 days risking being shot you do tend to earn the right to decide how your own story is told. It does strike me that it seems a bit of an intrusion by the author to take this out of his hands.


I agree - morally yes. But it's no different to someone cashing in on a popular celebrity's life with an "unauthorised" biography; plus this is a novel albeit based on biography. Ultimately this book was the written effort of the author, and it is the author who is entitled to the reward from its success. Or conversely - there was no guarantee it was going to be a bestseller.

While I have sympathy for Smailovic feeling exploited, I think there is a wider principle at stake. If subjects have right of veto or are entitled to share of profits just because someone writes a book about them, then this has implications for the concept of freedom of expression. eg. Celebrities will be able to prevent 'unauthorised' biographies that paint them warts and all.


Slight difference between 'bonking tales' and this chap though I'd say. However, probably the best course of action if you support the cellist is just not to buy the book.


Its a really difficult one, I think...the book interests me ( I have posted about it before) as does the real Vedran Smailovic, his personal story and his feelings (of ..violation?)

and the movie rights have been sold too, so we'll be getting the Cellist of Hollywood soon.

It's coming yet for a' that, that Man to Man, the world o'er, shall brothers be for a' that. (Robert Burns)

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Just realized how easy it is to be whipped up to a position of moral outrage.

I've read all of David Peace's Yorkshire Quartet, GB84 and Damned Utd. what a snivelling hypocrite I am. :spank: :spank:




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so who's going to buy the book then?

It's coming yet for a' that, that Man to Man, the world o'er, shall brothers be for a' that. (Robert Burns)

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It's interesting but I'll probably pass. I remember reading the Pianist and seeing the film, but there was no controversy surrounding that. I wonder what the author meant when he said -

“I never thought I would be making an enemy of Vedran Smailovic. I thought he just might not like the book.”





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