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View Full Version : The Cellist of Sarajevo - Inspiration for book is mad at author



Writing Jedi
07-18-2008, 07:05 PM
http://www.cbc.ca/arts/story/2008/07/17/cellist-novel.html?ref=rss

Just wondering what everyone's opinions are?

BenPanced
07-18-2008, 07:48 PM
Never heard of him or the book until now.

IceCreamEmpress
07-18-2008, 07:54 PM
I don't know what Canadian law is on this, but in the US he'd have a good case about the photograph. As for the text itself, if it contains an accurate description of his actions in public, I doubt he'd have a case here.

Writing Jedi
07-18-2008, 08:26 PM
Never heard of him or the book until now.

Well, I'd never heard of them either, LOL. I just think the "cellist" is being a bit of a, well, suck about it.

So some fictional characters are inspired by a real person. The author sent him an autographed copy of the book thinking he would be flattered and instead he is upset.

I am surprised the author or publisher did not contact him ahead of time, not so much for permission but more as a courtesy. But still.

IceCreamEmpress
07-18-2008, 09:29 PM
Well, I'd never heard of them either, LOL. I just think the "cellist" is being a bit of a, well, suck about it.

Not if they're using his likeness on the cover. A text inspired by his public activities is one thing; using his picture on the cover is quite another.

illiterwrite
07-18-2008, 09:33 PM
Not if they're using his likeness on the cover. A text inspired by his public activities is one thing; using his picture on the cover is quite another.

I agree. And I'm not sure why you wouldn't ask for permission to use a real person's photograph on the front cover.

ejket
07-18-2008, 09:57 PM
They crossed a line when they used his picture and his name on the book. Up to that point, no one necessarily "owns" one's actions in a meaningful way---especially in this case where the cellist is arguably a public figure.

It's still debatable. If he was wronged, I think he's being a bit of a drama queen about it. It might be proper to remove the photo and reference from the book, but no doubt the guy has sniffed money and wouldn't let that be the end of it.

willietheshakes
07-18-2008, 10:19 PM
no doubt the guy has sniffed money and wouldn't let that be the end of it.

Come on -- it's fuckin' CanLit -- there's no money there!

(Sorry, cheap shot. Mostly true though. Except that Steve's done pretty well with international sales on this one, so there probably is a bit of scratch at play.)

Perks
07-18-2008, 10:24 PM
It certainly was foolish to use his picture without obtaining permission. Beyond that, I don't see that the man has a case.

I hope it's a good book, because that's an interesting premise.

Angelinity
07-18-2008, 10:29 PM
I don't see it as a grey area at all: the real-life information was used as a marketing tool to increase market interest and sales. The cellist should get his share.

The decision of the author and publisher to go ahead without permission was unethical.

Perks
07-18-2008, 10:33 PM
But if you wrote about how three strangers were affected by, say, seeing David Blaine in his 'ice coffin' in Times Square, would Blaine be entitled to compensation? It's a fact. He did it. Both he-s, for all the world to see.

If the novel is about other people being affected by it, that's pure fiction.

Angelinity
07-18-2008, 10:38 PM
I would certainly contact David Blaine and let him know he's about to be featured in my book. I may be old fashioned, but feel that's the right thing to do.

Perks
07-18-2008, 10:44 PM
I probably would to, but I wouldn't be expecting to pay him in anything other than acknowledgement for having done something that inspired me to a story.

As far as using his likeness, I don't know what the rules are where that's concerned, but wouldn't be surprised to find that he's got a legitimate gripe there.

IceCreamEmpress
07-18-2008, 10:47 PM
But if you wrote about how three strangers were affected by, say, seeing David Blaine in his 'ice coffin' in Times Square, would Blaine be entitled to compensation?

Absolutely not, at least under US law.

Now, if you used David Blaine's photograph on the cover, you would be liable.

Perks
07-18-2008, 10:50 PM
The thing is, a fiction writer gets paid to create and execute a story. If you had to pay down the line for your inspirations, it would never be anything more than a very expensive hobby.

Angelinity
07-18-2008, 11:24 PM
I agree, however I also believe there should be self-imposed ethical boundaries to how we manipulate or use the elements of our inspiration. All the author had to do in this case, imo, if he didn't want to contact the cellist, was to change the name in the book and not use the man's picture.

I for one would not take it very well if I suddenly found my picture on the front cover of a book I had no idea was being published worldwide...and to top it off, my real name was used. I'd be really upset.

Perks
07-18-2008, 11:50 PM
That wouldn't really work, though. If there was a globally documented event of a Vedran Smailovic playing the cello atop of heap of rubble for twenty-two days in Sarajevo, it would look pretty silly to name him Gordon Gunn and carry on with the tale from there.

I think it would be polite to inform him that his act of artistic defiance inspired a novel, but I think the author did that with the gift of the book. (Like I said, I hope it's a good book, because Mr. Smailovic's protest concert was an eloquent gesture.) I do not believe the author is under any obligation to obtain permission to use a news item as backdrop to his story.

Now if Mr. Smailovic was a central character, where the novelist assigned him traits and motivations in any significant way, then I think he might have something to say about it.

There are probably more graceful ways to have handled it, but it doesn't seem unethical to me, except for perhaps the cover art - which the author may or may not have had anything to do with.



I for one would not take it very well if I suddenly found my picture on the front cover of a book I had no idea was being published worldwide...and to top it off, my real name was used. I'd be really upset.

His name and likeness had already been used worldwide in conjunction with the news coverage of the event. It sounds like that's all that was used in the book, pivotal as it was to the narrative.

Writing Jedi
07-19-2008, 12:23 AM
That wouldn't really work, though. If there was a globally documented event of a Vedran Smailovic playing the cello atop of heap of rubble for twenty-two days in Sarajevo, it would look pretty silly to name him Gordon Gunn and carry on with the tale from there.

I think it would be polite to inform him that his act of artistic defiance inspired a novel, but I think the author did that with the gift of the book. (Like I said, I hope it's a good book, because Mr. Smailovic's protest concert was an eloquent gesture.) I do not believe the author is under any obligation to obtain permission to use a news item as backdrop to his story.

Now if Mr. Smailovic was a central character, where the novelist assigned him traits and motivations in any significant way, then I think he might have something to say about it.

There are probably more graceful ways to have handled it, but it doesn't seem unethical to me, except for perhaps the cover art - which the author may or may not have had anything to do with.



His name and likeness had already been used worldwide in conjunction with the news coverage of the event. It sounds like that's all that was used in the book, pivotal as it was to the narrative.

Gotta agree with you.

And by the way, the book received very glowing reviews from what I have read. It seems like a "major, literary" type book.

According to Wikipedia, there have been a couple of songs written about him too and using the same title.

Angelinity
07-19-2008, 12:44 AM
His name and likeness had already been used worldwide in conjunction with the news coverage of the event. It sounds like that's all that was used in the book, pivotal as it was to the narrative.

It's a fine line, imo--reporting the news is one thing, and if this were a journalist retelling the story, I wouldn't see a conflict of interest.

But we're talking about writing fiction here, and when an author uses a real person as a pivotal character to create and further the plot in his fiction, it does not seem right.

Had this been a political figure or leader of some other sort, I could overlook the faux pas. But it was an everyday guy who had the guts to take a stand risking his life, at a time of turmoil and mayhem. I imagine this 'moment' held a special meaning for him, I imagine he invested a great deal of emotion into it, and carried it with him for all these years.

Then out of the blue there is a book of fiction from a guy he's never met, a guy who never bothered to ask him why he'd done it, and what all of it had meant to him. I imagine this everyday man who maybe only did this one notable thing in his life, felt used and cheated.

Perks
07-19-2008, 01:08 AM
Then out of the blue there is a book of fiction from a guy he's never met, a guy who never bothered to ask him why he'd done it, and what all of it had meant to him. I imagine this everyday man who maybe only did this one notable thing in his life, felt used and cheated.

If that's what the book had been about, then I might agree with you. But the book is about three people who saw this man in his moment and what it meant to them and how it changed the course of their lives.

What Mr. Smailovic was thinking or feeling at the time of his performance is not pivotal. In fact, it's irrelevant. It's only the picture of him doing it - which was international news - that's important for the sake of the story. Interviewing Mr. Smailovic would not only have been useless, it could have damaged the story. That's why I think it's sort of a neat angle. We often never know why people do the things they do which inspire or inflame us in some way.

When I was a kid, I saw a little boy sobbing once. He was wracked with shudders and the tears on his face were coming in sheets, not just streams. The setting was ordinary, but something in his heartbreak just gutted me and tuned me to care more about strangers than I ever had before. I never forgot that boy. I can still see him clearly.

In all likelihood, he'd dropped his lollipop or had been scolded for a tantrum. Maybe he got stung by a bee. If I had known what was actually in his mind, the moment may very well have been diluted.

While Mr. Smailovic's internal dialogue was assuredly more profound during his vigil, still I find my point illustrative. It's the image of him that's iconic. What he was thinking at the time would only have weight if the story were about him. It's not.

Perks
07-19-2008, 01:11 AM
Hmmm. I wonder if they've changed the cover, because there isn't anyone at all on it according to Amazon.com.http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1594489866/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link

Angelinity
07-19-2008, 01:15 AM
The boy was and remains anonymous. Smailovic on the other hand is being pictured and talked about by, among other people he'll never know, the two of us. :D

Perks
07-19-2008, 01:16 AM
And now I think I'm going to have to read the book. For one, it's sounds tremendous and also to see if I can retain my opinion of this conflict.

It really does sounds like a terrific story.

Perks
07-19-2008, 01:17 AM
The boy was and remains anonymous. Smailovic on the other hand is being pictured and talked about by, among other people he'll never know, the two of us. :DBut he always would have been. Many anonymous people have discussed this man over coffee or the dinner table or on the subway.

You make a protest, you want people to remember. That he inspired this novel sounds like a tribute. Not that it needed to be, in my opinion.

Angelinity
07-19-2008, 01:25 AM
But he always would have been. Many anonymous people have discussed this man over coffee or the dinner table or on the subway.



at the time he chose that for himself.

this time around his story was used unknowingly to him by someone who gained a monetary reward.

HeronW
07-19-2008, 01:43 AM
Seems like using the cellist's pix --likely one from a show or his promos is crossing the line.

Angelinity
07-19-2008, 01:46 AM
And now I think I'm going to have to read the book. For one, it's sounds tremendous and also to see if I can retain my opinion of this conflict.

It really does sounds like a terrific story.

I don't know. Maybe you should read a few pages first... there's a bit of telling goin' on. http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1594489866/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link

Perks
07-19-2008, 01:49 AM
his story was used unknowingly to him by someone who gained a monetary reward.

Monetary gain?! Potato-potahto, but I call it a paycheck.

JeanneTGC
07-19-2008, 02:00 AM
Monetary gain?! Potato-potahto, but I call it a paycheck.
A paycheck is what you receive for working for someone else and being paid for your time and effort. A paycheck is steady and remains the same, allowing for raises.

An advance and royalties are what you're paid for authoring a book. They vary depending on what deal you get and how many books you sell.

A journalist writing a story for their newspaper about this would receive a paycheck.

Someone writing a book isn't getting a paycheck to write -- they receive an advance and royalties.

So, if you're writing a book and you sell it, it is for monetary gain, not a paycheck.

Writing Jedi
07-19-2008, 03:40 AM
Hmmm. I wonder if they've changed the cover, because there isn't anyone at all on it according to Amazon.com.http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1594489866/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link

Apparently it was only the Canadian edition that had the photo. You can see it on Amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Cellist-Sarajevo-Steven-Galloway/dp/0307397033/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1216424304&sr=8-1

Beautiful photo. He's way off to the side.

IceCreamEmpress
07-19-2008, 06:12 AM
Apparently it was only the Canadian edition that had the photo. You can see it on Amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Cellist-Sarajevo-Steven-Galloway/dp/0307397033/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1216424304&sr=8-1

Beautiful photo. He's way off to the side.

It is a great photo.

The publishers should have compensated the subject as well as the photographer, though.