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One Book, One Community to experience ‘The Cellist of Sarajevo’

By Mark King In 1984, Sarajevo basked in the international spotlight as host of the XIV Olympic Winter Games. As the capital of Bosnia and Herzogovnia (a region within the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), Sarajevo was celebrated ...

By Mark King

 

In 1984, Sarajevo basked in the international spotlight as host of the XIV Olympic Winter Games.

As the capital of Bosnia and Herzogovnia (a region within the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), Sarajevo was celebrated for the beauty of its mountainous setting, international culture, and harmonious blend of three major ethnic and religious groups.

Less than a decade later, Sarajevo was once again the focus of international media attention, but this time for very different reasons. War had broken out in the streets, with Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks pitted against one another. Incessant shelling rained down on the city for four years and snipers in the mountains targeted innocent civilians in the streets. Nearly 12,000 were killed, half of them civilians, in the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare.

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Among those struggling to maintain a level of humanity in the midst of daily terror and carnage was a professional cellist who performed impromptu concerts in bombed-out buildings and markets. The cellist’s actions inspired author Steven Galloway, a college instructor of creative writing in British Columbia, to write a novel based on events in Sarajevo.

The One Book, One Community reading selection for 2014 is Galloway’s “The Cellist of Sarajevo.” The novel, which reads like a non-fiction account suffused with subtle literary effects, is the product of Galloway’s research and interviews conducted in Bosnia-Herzogovnia.

One Book, One Community is a shared endeavor of the Cloquet, Duluth and Virginia libraries. Community-wide discussion of the selected book’s issues, concerns, and relevance is fostered through library sponsored programs.

One of the highlights of the reading project will be Galloway’s appearance at noon Tuesday, April 15, at the Cloquet Public Library.

The author’s appearance in Cloquet presents a unique format which will differ from a talk he will give at Fitger’s Spirit of the North Theater in Duluth later that evening. In Cloquet, Galloway will be interviewed by Minnesota Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Mark Munger. Munger wrote about Serbo-Croatian tensions in his own novel, “The Legacy,” a Northern Minnesota murder mystery whose roots go back to Yugoslavia during World War II.

Galloway’s novel was the selection of a statewide reading project in Maryland in 2012 and has been a freshman common text in universities. Film rights have also been optioned.

The Bosnian war has been the subject of several movies, including “Welcome to Sarajevo” with Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei, which will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, at the Cloquet Public Library.

In the midst of the war, British composer David Wilde wrote a piece for solo cello, “The Cellist of Sarajevo: A Lament in Rondo Form.” The piece will be performed locally for the first time as part of a chamber ensemble performance at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 13, at the Presbyterian Church of Cloquet. The concert, titled “The Redemptive Power of Music,” is offered as part of the church’s Concerts on Fourth series and is sponsored by the library. Six classical and modern works will be featured, including Albinoni’s haunting “Adagio,” which became the centerpiece of the real-life cellist’s performances and plays a significant part in the novel.

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Duluth cellist Aleksander Tengesdal will perform the Wilde selection. The ensemble’s conductor and organist, Sam Black, said Tengesdal was the only local cellist he knows who had played the work.

“He’s the right choice to interpret it,” Black said. Musicians in the ensemble include members of the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra.

A brochure with a complete schedule of events in Cloquet, Duluth and Virginia, is available at Cloquet Public Library. The brochure also has questions for discussion.

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