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Vedran – The Cellist

Vedran Smailović felt that author Galloway used his personal story and image without permission
Paalso, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Vedran Smailović felt that author Galloway used his personal story and image without permission

This is Mike Strong, in Hays, for HPPR. The book is “The Cellist of Sarajevo” by Stephen Galloway.

On May 27th, 1992, one month and three weeks after the Bosnian War started, three shells fell into the middle of Sarajevo on Vaso Miskin Street. 22 people died. More than 70 people were wounded. The next day, in the same spot, in the open, cellist Vedran Smailović began a series of daily solos, one day for each of the 22 dead, each day playing Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor.

In addition to Vaso Miskin Street, Smailović played elsewhere in Sarajevo, in white shirt and black tailed coat. He became a symbol. Some traveled to Sarajevo to see him. Joan Baez joined him one day. Susan Sontag came and wrote of him. In 2008, Canadian author Stephen Galloway published his book and Vedran Smailović was not pleased. Smailović thought Galloway had ripped off his story. He wanted compensation.

Smailović complained, “They put my picture, my face, on the front, on the cover with no permission. They don't ask me — they use my name advertising their product. I don't care about fiction, I care about reality.”

Galloway told NBC news, “The cellist in my book is based on a real character. He doesn't ever speak in the book. I was kind of careful not to put words, I don't want to put words in his mouth.” Galloway noted that the cellist character occupies only the first five pages of the book.

Vedran’s picture is not on the cover now. There was an earlier cover which shows Vedran in the lower left of the image, almost out of frame. Legally, this goes to using an image or likeness without permission, although story elements themselves, as concepts, are normally considered to be fair game. In that vein, another book had the input of Smailović and uses his story and identity to fill in a fictionalized story, “Echoes from the Square” 1998 by another Canadian author, Elizabeth Wellburn. A young violinist hears Smailović playing the cello. His family invites Smailović into their home where we learn not only of his pain at the war but are assured of hope for the future. Remember this is a children’s book. Wellburn and Houston met with Smailović in London where they worked together on “Echoes from the Square.”

Wellburn even posted a YouTube video of illustrations from her book as she reads it. It is short, only about 10 minutes. In December 1993 Vedran Smailović escaped the war, heading to the UK, then to the far Southeast corner of Northern Ireland, in the tiny port city of Warrenpoint, where Vedran Smailović resides today.

This is Mike Strong, in Hays, for HPPR Radio Readers Book Club.

Selected References:

Sarajevo Massacre in the Bread Line is the name for the artillery attack on Sarajevo carried out by Bosnian Serb forces on May 27, 1992, during the siege. Three grenades were fired from the position in the direction of Bori, which exploded among the civilians who were waiting in line for bread in Vase Miskina Street (today's Ferhadija), Sarajevo's main street. At that time, 26 citizens of Sarajevo were killed and 108 were wounded.

Smailovic ref on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedran_Smailovi%C4%87 Vedran Smailović (born 11 November 1956), known as the "Cellist of Sarajevo", is a musician from Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the siege of Sarajevo, he played Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor in ruined buildings, and, often under the threat of snipers, he played during funerals. His bravery inspired musical numbers and a novel. He moved to Northern Ireland and is a composer, conductor, and performer. His G minor masterpiece was introduced in a book called "A Story Like the Wind".

The Cellist of Sarajevo (YouTube) “The actual cellist of Sarajevo playing against backdrop of war-damaged buildings in Sarajevo. The creation of this video was inspired by the extremely moving novel, "The Cellist of Sarajevo". This is an update of the video which was placed on You Tube two years ago. It is a truly heart-rending story!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2yIvUJfO54

Famous cellist claims story stolen by Canadian author https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/famous-cellist-claims-story-stolen-by-canadian-author-1.730813 CBC News · Posted: Jul 17, 2008 10:59 PM ET | Last Updated: July 17, 2008 A man once known worldwide as the Cellist of Sarajevo wants compensation from a Vancouver author who he said has used his reputation in a bestselling novel without asking.

Children’s Book “Echoes from the Square” Jan 1, 1998 – collaboration with Vedran   Echoes from the Square By Elizabeth Wellburn, read by Elizabeth Wellburn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMrf_sd3gkA Children's story read by the author and accompanied by artwork and music. "Echoes from the Square" is based on the true actions of the cellist of Sarajevo, Mr Vedran Smailovic, who played his cello during the siege of Sarajevo (Bosnia) amidst sniper fire and shelling.

Joan Baez in Sarajevo April 1993 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkTh_oxtcbk

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