The recent capture of Radovan Karadzik reminded me of Vedran Smailovic. He was a cellist in the Sarajevo Orchestra; in 1992, when 22 people standing in line outside a bakery were killed by Karadzik’s thugs during the siege of Sarajevo, Smailovic took upon himself a commemorative service. Every day, when he could, for as long as he could, he played Albinoni’s Adagio #2 in g, in the ruins of the bakery. John Burns of the New York Times wrote a lovely and detailed story about him. [URLs at the bottom]
I remember it, among other reasons, because I was a classical DJ at the time. Every Saturday for about six weeks, as a tribute to his courage, I juggled the schedule to make room for the Albinoni.
When the news about Karadzik broke (be patient; I’m getting to the part about writers now), I looked online to see what had become of Smailovic. He’s been living – playing music occasionally, and composing – in Ireland. And he’s been getting angry. He believes he has been – in simplest terms – ripped off.
A Canadian novelist, Steven Galloway, has come out with a new book, The Cellist of Sarajevo, which has been pretty well received – glowing reviews, and he has a Hollywood contract for the movie.
Smailovic is getting nothing, except for an author’s note by Galloway that his actions “inspired this novel, but I have not based the character of the cellist on the real Smailovic.”
The Times has interviews with both men. Smailovic is definitely pissed off. Galloway says that he’s upset by Smailovic’s reaction, adding…
“I didn’t contact him while writing the book because the characters don’t have contact with the Cellist and so it doesn’t really matter to them what he does.”
“The problem is that Mr Smailovic took a cello on to a street in a war and that’s an extremely public act. I can’t ignore that as an artist. I really hoped when I sent him the book that he would feel it had added to the discussion that he started."
“I’m at a bit of a loss to know how to address it. I don’t think that I crossed any lines about writing fictional things about a living person. I got most of my stuff off the internet.”
Now, for the grand prize, including but not limited to incredible public acclaim and your name on the forum, explain – as a writer – whether you’d have done what Galloway did, and the way he did it.
Capture of Karadzik:
Times inteview (Smailovic and Galloway) http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article4083037.ece