Pacifist Cellist at War with Novelist

Vedran Smailovic, the “Cellist of Sarajevo,” wants money from Steven Galloway, the Canadian author of The Cellist of Sarajevo, for his role in the book (“Famous cellist claims story stolen by Canadian author,” CBC):

With a stool and his cello, Smailovic once played on top of the rubble from a deadly mortar attack in Sarajevo. In plain view of snipers, he played for 22 days straight — one day for each person killed during the mortar attack.

So does the character in Steven Galloway’s book, published this year. It’s a war tale woven around three characters in Sarajevo and their reaction to a cellist character inspired by Smailovic, whose story has travelled around the globe.

“How can somebody steal your work, my, my sadness, my, my tragedy?” asks Smailovic.

“[I don’t know] for what I would be compensating. I mean, he performed a public act and I mentioned it?” asks Galloway.

I’m shocked–shocked!–that in this day and age, a spontaneous and moving tribute could be claimed as a copyright-protected piece of performance art. Then again, I am naive and easily surprised. I’m guessing that Galloway didn’t make as much money off it as Smailovic thinks he did. But then again, I am naive, etc.

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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