The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo Three: Kenan Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kenan moves quickly through the streets, reaching the other side of the main road. He sees Ismet and isn’t sure how to explain what happened at the brewery. Ismet invites Kenan to come with him to the market and Kenan agrees. The market is crowded and Kenan stops at the edge so he will not bump into people with his water. Ismet goes into the market square to see if there is anything worth buying. Kenan thinks about the smugglers who bring things into the city through the tunnel, then sell them at outrageous prices.
Kenan knows that Ismet, as a soldier, has seen far worse than the shelling at the brewery, but the incident was jarring for him as a civilian. Galloway again emphasizes the way that civilians suffered during the siege, showing how food and resources became scarce as selfish people tried to make a profit off the starving, captive civilians stranded in the city.
Themes
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Kenan sees the water truck from the brewery pull up to a man in a suit standing by a Mercedes. He suddenly realizes that this water is not going to troops, or to anyone who wants to help Sarajevo. He is shocked that people would stoop to buying and selling water, then angry that people are allowed to do this. Kenan wants to confront the man in the suit, but he can’t put down his water or it will be stolen.
Even more than food, Kenan considers water a basic need for survival. It is something that would be readily available if the city were functioning. Kenan struggles to understand how someone could be so morally bankrupt by the war that they would add a price to a fundamental part of life.
Themes
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Kenan waddles over to the man in the suit with his rope of water containers still draped on his shoulders. The man in the suit laughs at Kenan struggling to carry his water, then gets into his Mercedes and drives away. Kenan watches the man go, then hears music drifting down the street. Without knowing why, Kenan follows the music. He finds a small crowd of people gathered around a cellist playing in the street.
In the face of the selfishness and greed of the man with the Mercedes, the cellist shows how art follows a higher purpose. The cellist plays his music to help both himself and other people, while the man in the Mercedes is looking out only for himself.
Themes
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Kenan recognizes the cellist as a former member of the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra, though the cellist looks much worse for the wear of the war. Though Kenan has heard that a cellist was playing to memorialize the victims of a bakery shelling, he wonders why the cellist is truly playing and what the cellist hopes to accomplish. For the moment however, the music allows Kenan to imagine a better Sarajevo. The broken buildings around Kenan repair themselves in his mind as the music continues.
Kenan answers his own question about why the cellist is playing when he imagines the city coming back to health. The cellist’s music may not accomplish anything tangible, but it does remind the people of Sarajevo of the good aspects of civilization. Listening to this beauty allows Kenan to regain hope that Sarajevo will recover.
Themes
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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With the cellist’s music playing, Kenan can imagine himself returning home to a happy family, taking his children out to a restaurant, then walking through peaceful streets with ice cream. Kenan will ride the tram again, as he always used to, and give his oldest daughter money to go to a movie. He thinks that none of that can ever be taken away, but then the cellist stops playing and Kenan’s dream is gone.
The music reconnects Kenan to the parts of his life that make the siege worth living through. To have hope of being happy with his family once more, Kenan cannot let the dream of this future die.
Themes
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
The cellist goes inside and a woman who had been listening turns to Kenan and explains that her daughter was one of the ones killed in the bakery shelling. Kenan wishes he could say something to comfort the woman, but he can only stand silent. When the woman turns to go, Kenan asks if her daughter liked the cello. The woman doesn’t know, but Kenan responds that he thinks her daughter must have been a great lover of music. The woman leaves with a small smile.
Kenan gives this woman comfort in the wake of her daughter’s death. Again, the cellist’s music offers ways for the Sarajevans to heal from their wounds – even if it can’t keep those wounds from happening in the first place. Filled with hope from the cellist’s playing, Kenan finds the energy to connect with another person in a way that he hasn’t throughout the novel.
Themes
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Kenan returns to the market and sees Ismet paying a huge sum for a small bag of rice. Kenan shakes his head that his friend has to pay for relief supplies that should be given for free. The sound of shelling reminds Kenan that the men on the hill continue to kill people. They make ghosts out 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 be one of these living ghosts.
With civilized life broken down in Sarajevo, the citizens either succumb to their animal nature and fight for survival at all costs, or fall into despair and become walking ghosts. Mrs. Ristovski may be alive, but the part of her that enjoys life and connects to other people is dead. Kenan, still fresh from hearing the cellist’s music, remembers how much he wants to live life fully after the war.
Themes
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Ismet comes to find Kenan but Kenan walks away before Ismet can see him. Later, Kenan will go visit Ismet and joke with him. Kenan wants to keep hope alive, so that he and Ismet can be two of the people who can rebuild Sarajevo when this is all over. For now, Kenan must return to Cumurija Bridge and reclaim Mrs. Ristovski’s bottles of water.
To keep himself from being a walking ghost, Kenan must continue to help other people and display the values of the civilization that he cherishes. He has to go get Mrs. Ristovski’s water because he doesn’t want Sarajevo to turn into a place where everyone always cares about themselves.
Themes
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon