The Cellist of Sarajevo

Dragan Character Analysis

An elderly bakery worker, Dragan has become emotionally closed-off as a way of protecting himself from the trauma of war. After sending his wife, Raza, and son, Davor, to live safely in Italy, Dragan isolates himself in the city. He reawakens to his own emotions after running into his old friend Emina. Galloway points out that the harsh circumstances of the war have forced people to put up walls, but that a successful end to the war requires that people continue to connect with one another. Dragan hopes to be part of the group that rebuilds Sarajevo after the war. During the war, Dragan hopes to show a better image of Sarajevo to the world, acknowledging that the world should know of the atrocities that are happening in this city, but insisting that Sarajevo is not an abandoned wasteland with no chance of returning to its former state of tolerance and peace.

Dragan Quotes in The Cellist of Sarajevo

The The Cellist of Sarajevo quotes below are all either spoken by Dragan or refer to Dragan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead Books edition of The Cellist of Sarajevo published in 2009.
One: Dragan Quotes

Now, after all that has happened, Dragan knows that the Sarajevo he remembers, the city he grew up in and was proud of and happy with, likely never existed. If he looks around him, it's hard to see what once was, or maybe was. More and more it seems like there has never been anything here but the men on the hills with guns and bombs. Somehow that doesn't seem right either, yet these are the only two options.

Related Characters: Dragan
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:
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He's stopped talking to his friends, visits no one, avoids those who come to visit him. At work he says as little as possible. He can perhaps learn to bear the destruction of buildings, but the destruction of the living is too much for him. If people are going to be taken away from him, either through death or a transformation of their personality that makes them into strangers, then he's better off without them.

Related Characters: Dragan
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Two: Dragan Quotes

“The last time I saw him, he told me, 'What is coming is worse than anything you can imagine,’” Dragan says. “He killed himself the day the war began.”

Emina shakes her head. “This cannot be as bad as what happened in those camps.”
Dragan considers this, wonders how relative suffering is. “No, it's not. I don't think he thought it would be. But I think he believed that what he and others suffered there meant something, that people had learned from it. But they haven't.”

Related Characters: Dragan (speaker), Emina (speaker)
Page Number: 74-75
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

"I can't remember if we were like that, or just think we were. It seems impossible to remember what things were like." And he suspects this is what the men on the hills want most. They would, of course, like to kill them all, but if they can't, they would like to make them forget how they used to be, how civilized people act. He wonders how long it will take before they succeed.

Related Characters: Dragan (speaker), Emina
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Two: Dragan (Part 2) Quotes

"Who is he playing for?" she asks again, and suddenly Dragan thinks he knows.
"Maybe he's playing for himself," he says. "Maybe it's all he knows how to do, and he's not doing it to make something happen." And he thinks this is true. What the cellist wants isn't a change, or to set things right again, but to stop things from getting worse. Because, as the optimist in Emina's mother's joke said, it can always get worse. But perhaps the only thing that will stop it from getting worse is people doing the things they know how to do.

Related Characters: Dragan (speaker), Emina (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Cellist
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

She is the person he once knew: Affected by the war, changed, but the woman he knew is still in there. She hasn't been covered in the gray that colors the streets. He wonders why he hasn't seen this before, wonders how much else he hasn't seen.

Related Characters: Dragan, Emina
Related Symbols: Gray
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Three: Dragan (Part 2) Quotes

He looks across the street and sees the cameraman staring at him, his mouth open. His camera is in his hands, but not on his shoulder. It hasn't captured him, or the body of the hatless man.
Good, he thinks. I will not live in a city where dead bodies lie abandoned in the streets, and you will not tell the world I do.

Related Characters: Dragan
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Dragan Character Timeline in The Cellist of Sarajevo

The timeline below shows where the character Dragan appears in The Cellist of Sarajevo. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
One: Dragan
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Dragan remembers the old Sarajevo, wondering how much of that happy, peaceful city is a figment... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
On this day, Dragan is walking to the bakery where he works. He has worked there for almost 40... (full context)
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
The bakery is about three kilometers from Dragan’s sister’s apartment, which now takes Dragan an hour and a half to walk. Dragan walks... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Dragan continues on, skirting the main road to avoid getting too close to enemy territory. At... (full context)
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Dragan waits until he feels right to cross, never knowing what moment feels correct. He has... (full context)
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A man starts to run from the other side of the intersection. Dragan realizes it is an old acquaintance, Amil, with whom Dragan hasn’t spoken since the war... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
A couple ahead of Dragan decides to cross. When they are about a third of the way through the intersection,... (full context)
Two: Dragan
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
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...minutes since the sniper fired and several people have crossed the intersection with no problem. Dragan is hungry, wanting to cross and get to the bakery. But another part of him... (full context)
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Emina sees Dragan and rushes toward him. Dragan briefly considers rushing into the street to avoid saying hello,... (full context)
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Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Dragan tells Emina that a sniper has fired at this intersection, and Emina seems genuinely concerned... (full context)
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Emina asks Dragan if he has heard about a new production of Hair that is trying to get... (full context)
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Emina firmly claims that the world will have to send help soon, but Dragan knows that Sarajevo is on its own. For months at the beginning of the war,... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Dragan and Emina look around at the gray streets, and Emina comments that the war has... (full context)
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Dragan decides it is time to cross. About a quarter of the way across, Dragan feels... (full context)
Two: Dragan (Part 2)
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Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Dragan asks Emina if she would rather be wounded or killed. She answers wounded, rationalizing that... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
...confesses that she is afraid that this is how life will be forever in Sarajevo. Dragan shares her fear, looking up to see a large gray cloud that hovers over the... (full context)
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Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Dragan thinks of his son, Davor, now nineteen. Davor would be conscripted into the army if... (full context)
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Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
The dog disappears down the street and Emina asks Dragan where the dog is going. Dragan has no answer, but he realizes that he has... (full context)
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Emina and Dragan move toward the street, but Dragan suddenly loses his nerve. Emina decides to continue, hugging... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
...to help, then is hit by a bullet in the stomach. The hat lands at Dragan’s feet. Everyone behind the boxcar ducks as the young man in the street picks Emina... (full context)
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Emina and the young man reach Dragan behind the boxcar. Emina’s arm is wounded. Meanwhile, the now hatless man tries to crawl... (full context)
Three: Dragan
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...people gather around Emina, trying to see how badly injured her arm is. Someone hands Dragan Emina’s blue coat as they tie a tourniquet below her shoulder. Emina continues to bleed... (full context)
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Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Two men load Emina into the car. Dragan wishes he could go with her, but knows that it is not his place. A... (full context)
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Dragan looks at the body still on the street, again wondering if it is better to... (full context)
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Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
A month ago, Dragan had been forcibly conscripted by an army gang, even though his job at the bakery... (full context)
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Heroism Theme Icon
Dragan wishes that he had rushed into the street to help Emina, but he is also... (full context)
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A shell falling interrupts Dragan’s thoughts of escape. He listens to the shells and gunfire, wondering if the men on... (full context)
Three: Dragan (Part 2)
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
On the other side of the intersection, Dragan can see a man setting up a camera. The man is too clean and neat... (full context)
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Another dog comes up behind the journalist and also seems to be on a mission. Dragan briefly wonders if the dog will try to eat the corpse of the hatless man,... (full context)
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The journalist sets up a few more cables for his camera and Dragan knows he will be filming soon. Dragan does not want the body of the hatless... (full context)
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Dragan thinks about Emina and the cellist. Just as the cellist plays because it is the... (full context)
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Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Dragan walks into the street. Time slows in his head as he makes his way to... (full context)
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Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Dragan makes it back to the safety behind the boxcars. He checks his body, seeing that... (full context)
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Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Once the firing stops, Dragan stands and picks up Emina’s coat and the dead man’s hat. He thinks about what... (full context)
Four: Dragan
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Dragan questions whether the real Sarajevo is the happy, peaceful city of his memories or the... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
The journalist has packed up, trying to find a more exciting intersection to film. Dragan decides that he is going to cross now, no matter who may or may not... (full context)
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Dragan waits for a sniper bullet to hit him, but he is not shot. He reaches... (full context)