The Cellist of Sarajevo

Mrs. Ristovski Character Analysis

Kenan’s elderly neighbor, a prickly woman who lived through World War II. Kenan realizes that her difficult demeanor is the result of the loss and grief of war, though he still struggles to sympathize with her, since she seems so ungrateful for his help. Mrs. Ristovski is determined to survive this next conflict, though Kenan sees that part of Mrs. Ristovski – her innocence and optimism – has already died.

Mrs. Ristovski Quotes in The Cellist of Sarajevo

The The Cellist of Sarajevo quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Ristovski or refer to Mrs. Ristovski. 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: Kenan Quotes

"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.

Related Characters: Kenan (speaker), Mrs. Ristovski (speaker)
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
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Three: Kenan Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Kenan, Mrs. Ristovski
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mrs. Ristovski Character Timeline in The Cellist of Sarajevo

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Ristovski appears in The Cellist of Sarajevo. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
One: Kenan
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...take, settling on six—that way, Kenan can take two extra bottles for his elderly neighbor Mrs. Ristovski . (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
...he is more terrified about his children dying than about himself. Kenan makes it to Mrs. Ristovski’s door and knocks. Mrs. Ristovski has lived here for years, since the end of the... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
After the war started, Mrs. Ristovski barged into Kenan’s apartment, declaring that Kenan’s family had no idea of what people had... (full context)
Two: Kenan (Part 2)
Heroism Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
...and rebuild all the buildings they have destroyed. Kenan picks up his bottles and grabs Mrs. Ristovski’s containers, again cursing their lack of handles. (full context)
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Kenan remembers first meeting Mrs. Ristovski when she came over to the apartment the first day that Kenan and Amila moved... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Kenan sighs, wondering why he still deals with Mrs. Ristovski’s prickly personality. He gets up and starts toward the brewery, climbing the final hill alongside... (full context)
Two: Kenan (Part 3)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Kenan finishes filling up Mrs. Ristovski’s bottles as the last of the wounded are taken away. He slowly and deliberately picks... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
...from the other direction. Kenan waits for this other man to come across, wishing that Mrs. Ristovski’s bottles had handles so that he could carry all the water at once. As it... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...through this horrible world, especially not for a neighbor who hates everyone. Kenan thinks that Mrs. Ristovski should get her own water, picks up his own containers, and starts toward home. (full context)
Three: Kenan
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
...of the living, as well, by forcing people to drown in grief. He thinks of Mrs. Ristovski , who never recovered from her pain in WWII, and decides he doesn’t want to... (full context)
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...when this is all over. For now, Kenan must return to Cumurija Bridge and reclaim Mrs. Ristovski’s bottles of water. (full context)
Four: Kenan
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...hearing the cellist play again as a reminder of that coming future. Kenan goes to Mrs. Ristovski’s door and knocks, waiting for her to give him her cumbersome bottles to fill at... (full context)