56 pages 1 hour read

Susan Cain

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2022

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Prelude-IntroductionChapter Summaries & Analyses

Prelude-Introduction Summary

The Prelude introduces Vedran Smailović, otherwise known as the Cellist of Sarajevo. Cain provides a brief background of how Smailović became famous, namely that during the war in the former Yugoslavia, Smailović had been almost killed by a mortar attack. Twenty-two others near him were killed, and Smailović decided that he would play the cello for 22 days straight to honor the victims, all while mortars and bullets were firing around him. Cain mentions the music that Smailović played, Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. The Prelude ends with another anecdote from that war, this one involving an elderly man who had sought shelter in a forest. Upon his emergence from the forest, he was asked by a journalist if he would identify whether he was Croat or Muslim; the man responded by saying he was a musician.

In the opening to the formal introduction, Cain discusses her penchant for sad music and how she had been gently mocked while in college for it. She also asks why the culture in the United States is derisive toward demonstrations of melancholy. Cain then discusses the idea of the body having four humors, which Hippocrates developed to describe temperament in general.