Cellist: A person who plays the cello
Character: Arrow: Well trained 28 year old female sniper with big blue eyes, shoulder length black hair and she only shoots enemy soldiers.
Arrow shoots the soldiers because; “ Arrow pulls the trigger and ends the life of one of the soldiers in her sight, she’ll do so not because she wants him dead, although she can’t deny that she does but because the soldiers have robbed her and almost everyone else in the city of this gift. That life will end has become so self-evident it’s lost all meaning” (pg 12)
Arrow has been hired to take out the enemy forces to help fight the war that is going on in Sarajevo. She still has a conscience about killing other humans but kills the enemies because of what they have done to her life and everyone else’s. She doesn’t like it but feels that it has to be done.
Vraca: a city in North-western Bulgaria
Arrow doesn`t use her real name because; “Using her real name would make her no different from the men she kills. It would be a death greater than the end of her life.” (pg 13)
From the first time she picked up a rifle she called herself Arrow. I think that this is unique because she is protecting her city by fighting but protecting herself by not using her real name.
“I am Arrow because I hate them. The woman you knew hated nobody.” (pg 13)
This quote shows the theme of transformation and how it affects people. Arrow has transformed into a killer but the woman who she was before hated nobody.
“You don’t choose what to believe. Belief chooses you.”(pg 13)
This quote shows the theme of fate and whatever happens, happens for a reason. Arrow was never a killer but she was chosen to fit this role and go with it.
Character: Kenan: 40 year old man that has a wife named Amila, 2 daughters and a son that is 10. They haven’t had power in over a month that lasted for more than a few hours and even longer without running water. Every few days Kenan gathers up plastic containers to go into the city and get drinking water.
“Each time you expose yourself to the dangers of the streets you run the risk of injury or death. But carry too much and you lose the ability to run, duck, drive, anything it takes to get out of dangers way.”(pg 24)
Even though there is a war going on Kenan has even more choices to make so he can make it through. He has to make sure he has enough mobility to get around fast but have enough supplies so they don’t go dry. Also Kenan not only has to care for his own family but has to help an elderly neighbour of his, Mrs. Riskovski. She is well into her 70’s, her husband was killed during the initial days of the German invasion and she almost always grumpy.
Character: Dragon: Is 64 years old, lives in Mejtas with his young sister and her family and has worked at the city’s bakery for almost 40 years. Dragon was able to get his wife Raza and his 18 year old son out of the city before the war started. He thinks they are in Italy now. He hasn’t heard from them in 3 months. His son’s name is Davor. He lives 40 minutes away from the bakery, but some days it takes him an hour and a half or more because of the war.
“If people are going to be taken from him, either through death or a transformation of their personality that makes them into strangers, then he’s better off without them.” (pg 43)
Dragon is scared of change and a lot of change has occurred recently. He is without his family and without a stable city which he is not use to. It use to only take him a half hour to get to work now he is delayed because of the war.
Character: Kenan: He worked as a clerical assistant in an accounting firm, but the building has been destroyed so there is no work.
- Kenan's friend Ismet is a soldier.
- Kenan doesn't want to join the army because, " He knows that sooner or later he will have to kill someone." "And he is afraid of dying, he is more afraid of killing." (pg 51)
In these times there are many decisions that have to be made by a person. You are out of work so you are living off of the funds that you currently have. Now you have to ration your money because you don’t know how long the war is going to last or if you will need it to get out of the city. Before you may have been cautious with your money but i feel that you would turn into a very organized human.
Kenan also has a friend that is in the army and fighting for your country and he wants you to join but hasn't asked you. Kenan has to think if he want to serve his country or just try to keep living day by day just getting by. But if he joins the army he is facing two of his biggest fears; getting killed, or killing. Kenan has some big decisions to make in his future during these stressful times.
" it takes courage to kill a man, and he doesn't possess such courage." (pg 51)
A lot of things take courage but this would push it to the limit. If you killed a man, you are not only taking his life but taking him out of many other lives too. Even though he is an enemy and has destroyed your country you would have to be mentally transformed to kill a human. I don't blame Kenan for not possessing this power because I think that the majority of humans don't.
" To him and others the tram was one of the most tangible signs of civilization." (pg 55)
" In Kenan's mind, whatever else happens, the war will not be over until the trams run again." (pg 55)
Kenan see's the tram almost every day and it reminds him of civilization, which has been lost in the war. I found it pretty unique that this one object over many others was the one Kenan chose to represent civilization. Also I thought that it represented the heart of the city and it has been destroyed, making the city appear to be dying.
“We have a special assignment for you .An important assignment.”(pg 69)
Arrow is being asked to protect the cellist from enemy snipers and the men on the hills. I thought that this was something that could be looked at. They are asking a female to protect the last thing the city has, breaking stereotypes. Back in the early wars females stayed at home with the children as the men went off to war. Now a female is being put in a very high role instead of males.
“Why don’t they just shell the street again?”
“It’s not about merely killing him. Shooting him is a statement.”(pg 76)The cellist is now all that the city has and the men on the hills want to take him out. They can easily bombard the street with mortars but they want to shoot him instead.
“It’s possible the sniper is gone. At least ten minutes have passed since he fired, and already several people have made it through the intersection without incident.”(pg 77)
Dragan has to deal with this sniper everyday when he makes his trek to work. He risks his life by crossing the road.
“There is a sharp zip, a rush of air as a bullet snaps past his left ear, then the harsh blast of a gun. For an instant he wonders if he’s been shot”
“She thinks of this in the context of pulling the trigger and ending a life.”(pg 96)
Arrow wasn’t a killer before the war but turned into one because of it. She doesn’t like it but feels she has to do it.
“Arrow will keep this man alive. This wasn’t ever really in doubt but neither had she decided she would do it. Now, as she sits where he sits, she tells herself the she will not allow this man to die.”(pg 97)
Arrow is watching out for the cellist now and she knows there is a sniper in the building across the road so she gets up into a building and tries to spot him but can’t. She keeps trying to sight him and think she sees him but doesn’t want to blow her cover.
As Kenan is going to get water he sees that fire trucks are putting out a fire at the library, as the men on the hills keep shooting. Kenan dodges the snipers to get his water. As he gets to the bridge a lady comes up behind him and asks if it’s clear to go. Kenan figures if he zig-zags he can dodge the sniper.
“Do you think,” Dragan asks, “It’s worse to be wounded or killed?”(pg 123)
Dragan has the constant fear of being shot and what it’s going to be like, if he will die or get shot and live. He has to deal with this everyday when he crosses the road and has to dodge the sniper.
Emina starts to talk about the cellist and what he does. Dragan has acknowledged what he’s done but never really paid attention to him. When she asks about why he does it Dragan has no answer.
Arrow is concerned about herself because, “She’s beginning to think perhaps she has lost her way, perhaps she isn’t the weapon she was just a few days ago.”(pg 137)
“When her neighbour Slavko was killed by a sniper on his way back from collecting water, shot clean through the neck, they took him to the Kosevo Stadium, now made into a burial ground.”(pg 138)
As Arrow is sitting in the apartment waiting for the other sniper, she thinks about some of the people she has lost during the war. Slavko was her neighbour and always seemed to like her.
Slavko – Arrow’s neighbour that had retired just before the war from the city parks department. He was tall and thin, wore glasses that made him look like a bug and he knew a lot about animals and birds.
Normally Arrow didn’t go to funerals but out of respect she tried to attend as many as possible. “In the early days of war she went to as many as she could out of respect, but then she became numb to them, and the more she attended the less she felt, until the misery of death and sorrow of these left alive made her angry.”(pg 138)
During Slavko’s funeral they hear shells being fired toward them so everyone except for a fat man and Arrow jump into the dugout graves. After the fat man asks her why she didn’t jump into the grave, she replies that she was worried that he would have landed on top of her but in reality it was because, “Later though, she knew the real reason. She would not let the men on the hills decide when she went below the ground. If she were to go underground it would be because she decided to or because they killed her. But she wasn’t going to do their work for them.”(pg 142)
“An entity like her, a killer you can’t control is a dangerous thing.”(pg 148)
Arrows job is to protect the cellist from snipers from the hills. Yesterday she was compromised and shot at but not hit, she then thought that he was going to kill the cellist, but he didn’t. The next day she sets up in the same place and has him in her scopes but she doesn’t shoot, she knows why he didn’t shoot yesterday, “His head leans back slightly, and she sees that his eyes are closed, that he’s no longer looking through his scope. She knows what he’s doing. It’s very clear to her, unmistakeable. He is listening to the music. And then Arrow knows why he didn’t fire yesterday.”(pg 153)
“His eyes open, and a small hole erupts between them. The back of his head disintegrates and the grey viscus of his brain slaps onto the wall behind him. He falls from sight and his rifle falls on top of him.(pg 154)
Although she was admiring the sniper was listening to the music, she still had a job to do. After she looks down at the cellist hoping he’d look up and recognize what she’s done for him. But instead he just picks up his stuff and leaves like normal.
During the war Kenan has to go and get water for his family. He makes the trek to the Brewery to get his water. People stand in a line to get water that is sent from a pipe to hoses but the hoses are always running and Kenan doesn`t understand why they don`t have valves. “Kenan has never understood why they don’t have a valve on each outlet to shut off the water between users. It seems to him an awful waste of such a precious resource.”(pg157)
“He just doesn’t want to be responsible for waste.”(pg 158) Kenan doesn’t want to be responsible if they run out of water so he tries to waste as little as possible.
While Kenan is standing in line, “The shell hits, and an instant after hearing the loudest noise he thought the world could contain, Kenan is knocked off his feet.” “He sprawls on his back, and he doesn’t hear the whistle of the second incoming shell, but hears its detonation.”(pg 159)
This shelling killed and injured many people that were just meters behind Kenan. Kenan watches as the bodies are loaded into a van. “The bodies are loaded in feet first, and as they’re lifted into the van their heads loll back, as though taking one last look at the place where they died.”(pg 165)
“There’s no way that his friend Ismet sits in a hole on the front line and thinks such silly, meaningless thoughts. It’s things like this that make him the coward he is, unable to help the wounded at a massacre, or a relatively unharmed man searching for his dog.”(pg 167) Kenan was walking like a penguin when he thought of this. It brought out the fact that he wasn’t able to help those people, he just stared at them. Would Ismet stand and watch this happen or would he have helped?
Kenan is debating about going back to help anyone that was hurt during the shelling but,” Fear has paralyzed him as surely as a bullet to the spine, and he simply doesn’t have what it takes to go back.”(pg 168)
At the start of the chapter, there is a small group around Emina, “She’s been shot just above the elbow in the lower part of her bicepts.”(pg 175) “Emina is still conscious, and doesn’t seem to be in much pain as he’d have expected. Her face is white.” (pg 176)
What brought Emina there was, “ I wanted to see the cellist play today. It’s his last day. Jovan says he’s finished after this.” (pg 177)
Once Emina is taken away, Dragan contemplates his actions, “Still he didn’t move when shots were fired. Not because he thought anything though, but because he was afraid. If that makes him a coward he’s comfortable calling himself a coward.”(pg 181)
Dragan is thinking about leaving the city but the only safe way out is through the tunnel, but you need a pass and he doesn’t know where to get one. He imagines what it would be like to live in Italy with his wife and son and not to hate anyone. “They will be happy. They won’t hate anyone, and no one will hate them.”(pg 183)
Arrow goes to visit Nermin to update him on what has happened. She explains to him about the sniper not shooting and her shooting him. Nermin then says, “No you didn’t. But this has nothing to do with the cellist. The time has come for you to disappear.”(pg 189) Nermin could no longer look after her so he had to let her go.
Arrow considers Nermin to be the closest thing to a friend she has, so saying goodbye was hard. As Arrow was getting up to leave he says, “Your father would have never forgiven me for turning you into a soldier.”(pg 190)
Arrow thinks about why she kills the men on the hills, at the start it was because it was her duty to kill them but now she kills them because, “She knows she no longer kills them because they are killing her fellow citizens. That’s just a part of it. She kills them because she hates them.”(pg 190)
Throughout the war food and water are becoming a precious resource but of what there is. “Her stomach grumbles, protesting her small supper of rice and weak tea. She can’t stand rice.”(pg 195)
Instead of the army paying Arrow in money they pay her in cigarettes. She uses them to, “She gets paid in cigarettes by the army, which she trades for small thing like a square of chocolate or a bar of soap.”(pg 195)
Since Arrow was discharged by Nermin she has been reassigned to a new unit. Three men show up at her door and take her to Colonel Edin Karaman. “Your unit has been disbanded. You have been reassigned to me.” She is to listen to a man on who to shoot from now on and she doesn’t like that but, “Arrow bends down and picks up her rifle. Its familiar weight comforts her. If they want her to kill the men on the hills, then fine, she will kill the men on the hills. Whatever has happened in her life, the choices she has already made, they have led her to this point. All that remain are the consequences.”(pg 202)
As Kenan scurries through the town to get his water he comes across the cellist. “He stares at the cellist, and feels himself relax as the music seeps into him.”(pg 209)
Throughout this section Kenan thinks about what his life would be like without the war, not having to get water every couple day and risk his life doing it. Just turning the running water on at home and drinking it like it wasn’t a precious resource.
Then men on the hills have destroyed the town and what remains are a lot of broken buildings, one being the parliament building. “They take her to what’s left of the parliament building, on of the tallest buildings in town. The men on the hills have hit it with hundreds of shells, set it on fire, then fired hundreds more shells at it.”(pg 217)
Arrow is assigned to a man named Hassan and she will shoot who he says. “He’s about her age, no more than thirty. He’s tall, has the sort of face that looks amused regardless the situation, and curly hair. He’s wearing a pair of grey coveralls and holds a semi-automatic rifle in his hands. I’m Hassan he says.”(pg 218)
“The streets are barely street anymore. The pavement is torn apart, littered with mangled cars and pieces of buildings.”(pg 221)
Arrow comes into her first argument with this man, Hasan about who to shoot, [“That man’s a civilian,” she says. “He’s no soldier.”
“He’s our target,” Hasan says. “I pick who to shoot at, not you.”
“No,” she says. “He’s no good.”(pg 223)
Arrow has only shot at soldiers since she started this operation and now this man is telling her to shoot civilians, so she questions about it.
“I mean you’re not an ordinary soldier. Colonel Karaman’s unit is not just any unit.”
“You kill civilians?”
He laughs. “Sure. We do a lot of things. This is merely a test, one you are failing.”(pg 225)
After Hasan demanding her to shoot she says no and leaves.
Everyday Dragan has to put his life at risk when crossing the road, a sniper may or may not shoot him. “Dragan wonders if he gets some sort of thrill out of challenging an intersection that’s known to have a sniper. It’s a new sport, perhaps. The hundred-metre dash, with bullets.”(pg 229)
Throughout the war life is hard if you are a “normal” person. “Everything that is neither politician nor gangster in this city is hungry.”(pg 231
Dragan is walking through the streets and he notices a dead man lying on the ground all bloody. He thinks about what the men on the hills have done to the city. He takes Emina’s coat, covers the man’s feet and puts his hat back on him.
Instead of making the trek for water today he is making the trek for a different reason. Amila asks Kenan if he can go out and get her some chocolate and a dozen eggs. He asks why a dozen eggs, she replies that she is going to bake a cake. He then adds he is going to get some Brandy to go with it.
I feel that they are celebrating in a way, that Steven Galloway ended Kenan’s story on a good note, not on a dreading ending.
“There is no way to tell which version of a lie is the truth. Is the real Sarajevo the one where people were happy, treated each other well lived without conflict? Or is the real Sarajevo the one he sees today, where people are trying to kill each other, where bullets and bombs fly down from the hills and the buildings crumble to the ground? Dragan can only ask the question. He doesn’t know for sure.”(pg 247)
Dragan is older and has seen Sarajevo on both sides of this story but is unsure about what is the real Sarajevo now.
“He knows which lie he will tell himself. The city he lives in is full of people who will someday go back to treating each other like humans. The war will end, and when it’s looked back upon it will be with regret, not with fond memories of faded glory.”(pg 248)
I think that Dragan knows that Sarajevo will never be the same but he just imagines that it will so he can look forward to the future.
Dragan crosses the street once again, even more terrified than all the previous times. He makes it across and wonders if he’s been shot but he hasn’t. On his way home he is going to make a detour and watch the cellist play so he can tell Emina.
“The footsteps are at the top of the stairs now, just outside her door. Arrow looks again at the gun on her night table. If she were to use it, she knows exactly what would happen. The men on the other side of the door would die and she’d step over their bodies and out into the street. It would take only a few seconds. It would be the easiest thing in the world. But she isn’t going to pick up the gun. It sits on the night table partly out of habit, and partly because she wants them to know that she was armed and could have fought back. She’s not sure they’ll notice this clue. It doesn’t matter. It only matters that she leaves it.”(pg 256-257)
Arrow hears footsteps come up to her door then knocking. She knows they are either going to kill her or take her away. She thinks about killing them and walking over them but then thinks about just leaving her loaded gun at her side so they know she could have killed them.
“In a few seconds the door will open. At least four men, maybe more, will burst through and as quickly as they can, they will fire as many bullets into her as possible. It won’t take long, only a few seconds, and afterwards they will feel sheepish at how nervous they were about the whole thing. She hears on of them take a step back, knows he’s about to kick in the door. She closes her eyes, recalls the notes she heard only yesterday, a melody that is no longer there but feels very close. Her lips move, and a moment before the door splinters off its hinges she says, her voice strong and quiet, “My name is Alisa.””(pg 258)
I think that this was a great ending to this novel. Throughout the whole book we only know this female sniper as Arrow. At the end just before she is going to die she says that her name is Alisa. I feel that she is trying to regain her identity as the innocent girl she was before the war, before she was a killer. It’s almost like she is taking off her killer mask to become herself again.
Overall this book was portrayed very well and gave the reader a good sense of how it was to live there. Whether your everyday struggle was to get water, cross a road or pull the trigger it took you into their shoes. The setting was vivid and you could imagine it at almost every point in the novel. Finally the ending was fantastic, probably one of the best endings in my mind, Arrow putting down her rifle to regain herself as Alisa.