Kenan Quotes in The Cellist of Sarajevo
"You've never lived through a war. You have no idea what it will be like."
"It won't last long," he said. "The rest of Europe will do something to stop it from escalating."
She snorted. "That won't matter for me. I'm too old to do the things one must do in wartime to survive."
Kenan wasn't sure what she meant. He knew that she had been married just before the last war and that her husband was killed during the initial days of the German invasion. "It might not be that bad," he said, regretting it immediately, knowing it wasn't true.
"You have no idea," she repeated.
"Well," he said, "I will help you. Everyone in the building will help each other. You'll see."
Mrs. Ristovski picked up her coffee and took a sip. She didn't look at Kenan, refusing to acknowledge his smile. "We'll see," she said.
Men who are much older, have larger families, and are less suited to combat have enlisted. But Kenan hasn't. He knows the real reason.
He's afraid of dying. He may very well die at any time, whether he's in the army or not, but he feels that as a civilian his chances are lower, and if he's killed it will be unjust, whereas for a soldier death is part of the job.
As a schoolboy, Kenan had been made to visit the small museum, now destroyed, that commemorated the assassination. He has always been slightly ashamed that, for a generation, when the world thought of Sarajevo, it was as a place of murder. It isn't clear to him how the world will think of the city now that thousands have been murdered. He suspects that what the world wants most is not to think of it at a1l.
The men on the hills made the library one of their first targets, and they took to their task with great efficiency. Kenan didn't know if it was shells that started the fire, or if someone smuggled in a bomb as they did in the post office, but he knew that as it burned they fired incendiary shells at it. He went there when he heard it was burning, without knowing why. He watched, helpless and useless, as this symbol of what the city was and what many still wanted it to be, gave in to the desires of the men on the hills.
Kenan is able to identify three types of people here. There are those who ran away as soon as the shells fell, their instinct for self-preservation stronger than their sense of altruism or civic duty. Then there are those who didn't run, who are now covered in the blood of the wounded, and they work with a myopic urgency to help those who can be saved, and to remove those who can't to go to whatever awaits them next. Then there's the third type, the group Kenan falls into. They stand, mouths gaping, and watch as others run for help. He's surprised he didn't run, isn't part of the first group, and he wishes he were part of the second.
The building behind the cellist repairs itself. The scars of bullets and shrapnel are covered by plaster and paint, and windows reassemble, clarify, and sparkle as the sun reflects off glass. The cobblestones of the road set themselves straight. Around him people stand up taller, their faces put on weight and color. Clothes gain lost thread, brighten, smooth out their wrinkles.
Kenan watches as his city heals itself around him. The cellist continues to play…
He thinks of Mrs. Ristovski. He doesn't know what made her the way she is, but something has killed her, he can see now that she is a ghost as well. She has been a ghost for a long time. And to be a ghost while you're still alive is the worst thing he can imagine.
He knows that if he wants to be one of the people who rebuild the city one of the people who have the right even to speak about how Sarajevo should repair itself then he has to go outside and face the men on the hills. His family needs water, and he will get it for them. The city is full of people doing the same as he is, and they all find a way to continue with life. They're not cowards, and they're not heroes.