The different uses of colour by an author in their writing can have an incredible effect on the way that a novel is perceived. In the novel The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, the lack of colour sets the tone appropriate for a book about a city under siege, this is punctuated by spots of colour, which give light to the depressing mood. In the book, Sarajevo is a city that has largely been destroyed. Each of the characters in the book is given hope by a cellist who sits on the street each day and plays for the 22 people who died in a bombing outside his home.
At different times, Galloway is able to provoke images in the minds of readers through the use of bright colours. The novel is also often deprived of colour creating new images and feelings which portray the dismal mood of the people. Galloway uses grey to help give the impression of a war-torn city. By using colour in different ways, Galloway is able to portray the mood of each character, as well as the general tone of the city. The war has drastically changed Sarajevo, giving it a much darker tone and look than what the characters remember it being.
Bright colours intersperse themselves in the grey and black of the destroyed city, often bringing light and hope to people. As the city is destroyed, the dust has slowly covered everything, putting a grey hue on buildings, streets and objects. This grey is sometimes missing from objects allowing Galloway to turn them into symbols of hope for people. Even buildings that were considered to be an eyesore before the war bring relief to Kenan when he is bringing his water back to his family’s apartment.
A specific example of this is; “As he doglegs to the north a group of bright green and yellow apartments come into view, nicknamed the parrots by those in the city who thought they were an eyesore… Now, though, he’s happy to see them because they stand at the foot of the Cumurija Bridge. ” The bright colours of the apartments please Kenan as he makes his way home. Kenan is brought happiness by the fact that he is getting closer to home. While he says that the bright apartments may not be to his liking, Kenan is now given hope by them.
While the bright colours of the city may not have been to the liking of people before the war, Galloway uses them as a source of hope for characters, shining through the grey of the city. Lack of colour in specific areas brings a different aspect to the novel. By removing the colour from parts of the novel, Galloway is able to show a different mood which is often one without hope or happiness. The war has removed colour from the city, taking the soul and energy of the citizens with it.
There is little hope for the people of Sarajevo, and the thoughts and dreams of all three characters show how they wish life could be once again. At least once, Arrow, Dragan and Kenan all tune out the world and think back to how their life was before the war. These thoughts are full of colour and light, the exact opposite of what their life is currently like. As Kenan listens to the cellist play, he has an epinaphy, and begins to think about better times and what he dreams that life will return to for him. This quote has several examples of how the lack of colour and light in life has made Kenan want those things back again.
The scars of bullets and shrapnel are covered by plaster and paint, and windows reassemble, clarify and sparkle as the sun reflects off the glass… Around him people stand up taller, their faces put on weight and colour. Clothes gain lost thread, brighten, smooth out their wrinkles… He’ll run his fingers through her hair, thick and the colour of honey. ” As the siege has dragged on, the city and its people have lost colour and brightness. Kenan fantasises that one day the grey of the current Sarajevo will be covered over with paint, bringing colour back into his life.
Even the clothes people wear have become darker, after not being able to purchase new ones. The clothes’ shabbiness has reflected on the people. They have lost their colour like the city. The feeling of hopelessness has sucked the spirit from the people, leaving them worn and without colour. As colour has left Sarajevo, its people have become more and more desperate for a source of happiness, which the cellist provides. Colour is used in various ways throughout the novel. Grey recurs multiple times and is used as a symbol by Galloway.
The use of grey instead of other colours portrays how the life has left Sarajevo. The majority of the people are simply “ghosts” as Kenan puts it, simply empty husks that are not dead simply because they have not been killed yet. As the war has progressed Sarajevo has become grey after being covered with dust. In this way, the colour grey is symbolic of the war. Dragan becomes aware of the grey that covers everything and feels that it gives the city a gloomy feeling, shown in this quote. “Everything around him is a particular shade of grey.
He’s not sure where it came from, if it was always there and the war has simply stripped away the colour that hid it, or if this grey is the colour of the war. Either way, it gives the whole street a bleak feeling. ” (pg. 40) Dragan feels as though the grey gives the street he is on a bleak feeling. The war has brought the grey, as well as the bleak feeling. There is a sense that the city is doomed, and there is nothing to be done, but wait to die. The intersection Dragan is crossing is known as one of the most dangerous in the city, which contributes to the atmosphere.
Grey can be described as a colour that is neither here nor there, not black or white. This can be another symbol of the war. The grey area relates to when the colonel tells Arrow that there are only two sides in the war. War is rarely black and white. More often, war is in a grey area. Due to the uncertainty of the siege, this is why Galloway chose to cover the city in grey. Grey is used by Galloway to portray the miserable mood that the city is in. Grey is also used as a symbol of the war. In the novel The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, the lack of colour sets the tone appropriate for a book about a city under siege, this is unctuated by spots of colour, which give light to the depressing mood.
Bright colours are used by Galloway to bring light and hope to the characters of the novel. The colours disrupt the grey that has covered Sarajevo, allowing characters a feeling that all may not be lost. The novel is often robbed of colour as well. This leaves the characters searching for a source of happiness and light in their miserable lives. The cellist provides this for all of the characters including him. When colour is deprived from areas of the book, grey is the shade that takes its place.
Grey is symbolic of the war and has an intense effect on the moods of the characters. Grey has taken the colour out of Sarajevo, leaving people desperate for a source of happiness. Galloway is able to use colour to accurately depict the mood and tone of the novel. By removing colour and replacing it with grey, the mood is represented as a very dismal, depressing feeling. However, this feeling is removed at times and replaced with hope for the characters, particularly when the cellist is playing, or when there is colour present.