Excerpt of The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
(Page 2 of 4)
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Now, however, she knows she wasn't being foolish. She
realizes that for no particular reason she stumbled into the core of what it is
to be human. It's a rare gift to understand that your life is wondrous, and that
it won't last forever.
So when Arrow pulls the trigger and ends the life of one of
the soldiers in her sights, 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. But worse, for Arrow, is the damage done
to the distance between what she knows and what she believes. For although she
knows her tears that day were not the ridiculous sentimentality of a teenage
girl, she doesn't really believe it.
From the elevated fortress of Vraca, above the occupied
neighborhood of Grbavica, her targets bomb the city with as-sumed impunity. In
the Second World War, Vraca was a place where the Nazis tortured and killed
those who resisted them. The names of the dead are carved on the steps, but at
the time few fighters used their real names. They took new names, names that
said more about them than any boastful story told by drunks in a bar, names that
defied the governments who later tried to twist their deeds into propaganda.
It's said they took these new names so their families wouldn't be in danger, so
they could slip in and out of two lives. But Arrow believes they took these
names so they could separate themselves from what they had to do, so the person
who fought and killed could someday be put away. To hate people because they
hated her first, and then to hate them because of what they've done to her, has
created a desire to separate the part of her that will fight back, that will
enjoy fighting back, from the part that never wanted to fight in the first
place. 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.
From the first time she picked up a rifle to kill she has
called herself Arrow. There are some who continue to call her by her former
name. She ignores them. If they persist, she tells them her name is Arrow now.
No one argues. No one questions what she must do. Everyone does something to
stay alive. But if they were to press her, she would say, "I am Arrow, because I
hate them. The woman you knew hated nobody."
Arrow has chosen today's targets because she doesn't want the
men at Vraca to feel safe. She will have to make an extremely difficult shot.
Though she hides on the ninth floor of this depredated building, the fortress
is an uphill run, and she must slip the bullet between a series of buildings
that stand between her and her target. The soldiers must stay within a space of
about three meters, and smoke from burning buildings periodically obscures her
view. As soon as she lets off a shot, every sniper on the southern hill will
begin to search for her. They'll quickly figure out where she is. At that point
they'll shell the building, into the ground if necessary. And the reason this
building is burned out is that it's an easy target. Her chances of escaping the
repercussions of her own bullets are slim. But this isn't an unusual set of
challenges. She has sent bullets through trickier air and faced swifter
retaliation in the past.
Arrow knows exactly how long it will take them to locate her.
She knows exactly where the snipers will look and exactly where the mortars will
hit. By the time the shelling stops she'll be gone, though none will understand
how, even those on her own side defending the city. If she told them they
wouldn't understand. They wouldn't believe that she knows what a weapon will do
because Arrow herself is a weapon. She possesses a particular kind of genius
few would want to accept. If she could choose, she wouldn't believe in it
either. But she knows it isn't up to her. You don't choose what to believe. Belief chooses you.
Reprinted from The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (pages 3-12) by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright 2008 by Steven Galloway.