I haven’t seen the movie American Sniper. And I don’t plan to. I’m also not terribly interested in the back-and-forth that’s going on over the politicization of the movie.
But all the commotion about this film reminded me of a much more authentic sniper’s story from the book The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. It is the fictionalized account of four people’s lives during the Siege of Sarajevo – which lasted from 1992 to 1996. As Galloway tells us in the afterword of the book, it is based on a true story of something that happened during the siege.
At four o’clock in the afternoon of May 17, 1992, during the Siege of Sarajevo, several mortar shells struck a group of people waiting to buy bread behind the market on Vase Miskina. Twenty-two people were killed and at least seventy were wounded. For the next twenty-two days Vedran Smailovic, a renonwned local cellist, played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor at the site in honor of the dead. His actions inspired this novel.
One of the characters portrayed in the book is a woman whose pseudonym during the siege is “Arrow” because she is hired by the government forces as a sniper to fire back at the enemy in the hills conducting the siege. She explains that she has adopted the pseudonym to draw a definitive line between the person she was before and the person she has become – in hopes that someday she can return to the former.
Here’s a taste of what goes on inside this sniper’s head as she watches girls place flowers in front of the cellist – and her eventual response to the music.
Arrow wonders about the two girls who laid flowers in front of the cellist. Do they hate the men on the hills as much as she does? Do they hate them for being murderous bastards, killers without remorse? She hopes not. That’s too easy. If they hate the men on the hills, then they are forced to hate her too. She kills just the same as they do…
Arrow let the slow pulse of the vibrating strings flood into her. She felt the lament raise a lump in her throat, fought back tears. She inhaled sharp and fast. Her eyes watered, and the notes ascended the scale. The men on the hills, the men in the city, herself, none of them had the right to do the things they’d done. It had never happened. It could not have happened. But she knew these notes. They had become a part of her. They told her that everything had happened exactly as she knew it had, and that nothing could be done about it. No grief or rage or noble act could undo it. But it could all have been stopped. It was possible. The men on the hills didn’t have to be murderers. The men in the city didn’t have to lower themselves to fight their attackers. She didn’t have to be filled with hatred. The music demanded that she remember this, that she know to a certainty that the world still held the capacity for goodness. The notes were proof of that.
Now…somebody go make a movie about that!!!