The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo Two: Kenan Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kenan walks down the street in the same direction he would if the building he used to work in were still standing. He pretends he is just going to work, and that he’ll have an ordinary day. But too soon, Kenan must pass the neighborhood trash bins, overflowing with refuse, and remember than nothing is as it should be. Kenan wonders if the men on the hill can see him, and he wonders what makes someone a target in their eyes.
Despite Kenan’s attempts to pretend that the war is not happening and that his life is normal, the poor reality of city functions in Sarajevo does not allow him to maintain that illusion. Kenan’s uncertainty about what makes someone a target highlights the fact that Galloway sees the cause of the war as senseless hatred.
Themes
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Kenan walks up to the grocery store hoping to see news about the next relief convoy. There is nothing posted, though it has been more than a month since aid has reached the city. Kenan then sees an old friend, Ismet, who has joined the army. Ismet has told Kenan about the fighting at the front, about nights of praying not to die as mortar shells rain down.
As the conflict stretches on, the outside world seems to forget about Sarajevo. The lack of aid means that the civilians of the city suffer in their own ways just as the soldiers on the front lines suffer.
Themes
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Kenan wonders why he can’t force himself to join the army, though he knows it’s only a matter of time until he is forcibly drafted. At the bottom of his heart, Kenan knows that he is afraid to die, but even more afraid to kill. Ismet is a far braver man, and Kenan feels guilty that his friend has seen so much while Kenan stays relatively safe.
Kenan struggles with guilt that he is “safe” as a civilian, though no one is truly safe in Sarajevo. Galloway begins to explore what makes someone a hero, starting with the conventional hero, such as a soldier who kills to protect others.
Themes
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Today, Ismet looks particularly worn and has a slight limp from a recent injury. Kenan hugs Ismet and they joke about buying meat at the grocery store. Ismet gives Kenan a cigarette, his pay from the army, and wishes Kenan luck getting water. Kenan smokes, then continues on with his water canisters. Kenan laughs when he sees an unbroken traffic mirror, one of the few undamaged things on the Sarajevo streets.
The Sarajevan Defense Corps is so underfunded that they can only pay soldiers in cigarettes. Similarly, Kenan knows that there will be no food at the grocery store. The unbroken mirror gives a view of just how much Sarajevo is suffering under the siege.
Themes
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
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Kenan keeps walking, passing by the Music Academy. Several people are inside playing pianos, making a cacophonous sound that is sometimes recognizable as music. Another block farther, Kenan comes to his old tram stop. For Kenan, the tram is a sign of civilization and the war will only be over once the trams begin to run again. Two blocks to the west is the marketplace, where food is now sold at ridiculously high prices. Kenan is quickly running out of money, as he watches others get rich from smuggling goods onto the black market through a tunnel that goes through the airport.
The music of the pianos is a small attempt to keep art alive in the city, but the noise of it all shows how the art suffers in the chaos of the war. Similarly, normal city functions have fallen into chaos. Kenan seems to see the loss of the music conservatory and the trams as a sign of declining civilization in the city. Galloway suggests that the music is just as important to the overall well-being of the city as running trams or even the proper delivery of food.
Themes
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Kenan puts the black market out of his mind and continues his journey. He can’t help but wonder how Sarajevo will rebuild when the fighting finally stops. He remembers taking Christmas trips to this street to look at the holiday decorations, but he can’t reconcile that memory with the reality in front of him. He refocuses on his journey, hoping to cross the Miljacka River over the Princip Bridge instead of the Cumurija bridge that has been shelled.
Kenan projects to a future after the war, but is unable to connect that back to his memory of Sarajevo as a peaceful place. The war-torn reality overcomes Kenan’s ability to either imagine or remember anything better for his life.
Themes
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Kenan passes the Hotel Europa, once the Stone Inn before it was destroyed by the Great Fire. Kenan wonders if the aftermath of the Great Fire looked like Sarajevo does now. Kenan wants to be one of the people who reconstructs Sarajevo after the war is over, but he doesn’t know how to keep the men on the hill or the black-market abusers from being a part of that.
Kenan tries to take hope from the idea that Sarajevo has come back from previous tragedies, but this crisis feels different because city is not working together. The men on the hill have enforced a separation between different groups, and this process of othering those who are different could keep the city from ever recovering.
Themes
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
The Princip Bridge used to be called the Latin Bridge before 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed by Gavrilo Princip. Kenan has always been ashamed that this assassination is what Sarajevo is known for by the international community, but he now thinks that the world is trying to ignore Sarajevo.
Sarajevo, as seen by the world, is a place of tragedy, first because of the assassination and now because of the siege. Through Kenan, Galloway hopes to show how there is more to Sarajevo than this suffering.
Themes
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Related Quotes
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Kenan meets a man running around the corner who warns him that snipers are targeting the Princip Bridge. Kenan decides to continue down to the Seher Cehaja bridge instead, though that will double the distance of his trip. Kenan enters the old Turkish neighborhood, feeling like he is re-entering the scene of a crime. The library burned months ago, but Kenan cannot get that sight out of his mind.
All of Kenan’s actions are determined by the enemies on the hill. In addition to taking away the freedom of Sarajevo’s citizens, the men on the hill also target the hope and culture of the city by destroying monuments to knowledge and civilization such as a library.
Themes
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Staying under the cover of the buildings, Kenan notices an old man fishing for pigeons by dangling bread on a pole. Kenan jokes with him about getting a license for this hunting, as the man explains that he has caught six and will stop for the day so that the pigeons will still be here tomorrow. Kenan wonders if that’s what the men on the hill are doing – killing just enough Sarajevans each day so that people will continue going out into the street.
Civilian life in Sarajevo continues to have the illusion of normalcy, as everyone fights to pretend that they are not being slowly hunted. The men on the hill turn the human residents of Sarajevo into hunted animals, stripping them of their agency and humanity.
Themes
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon