by Deborah Wandal
During the bombing of Sarajevo in 1992, a cellist, Vedran Smailovic, played in one of the city's squares for 22 days to commemorate 22 of his neighbours who were killed while standing in a bread queue. The Canadian author has succeeded brilliantly at integrating this event and the horrors the city's inhabitants endured during the months of bombing, with a fictional tale of a boy forever changed by the experience of hearing the cellist. Beginning with the pleasure Alen takes in this city square before the war, in its sounds and smells, its beautiful old buildings, the author proceeds to give us, through Alen, a vivid sense of how the horrific sights, sounds and stink of war generate such fear that all other feelings are blotted out. But the music played amidst the devastation lifts Alen and many others who listen out of their fear, by re-awakening memories of happier times and promises of a better future. As the cellist says to Alen: "I am still afraid, but when I play I am able to show the world my other feelings. Music is love that connects people." Written with the help of the cellist, the story shows the power of music to redeem our humanity despite the insanity of war.