Cellist of Sarajevo

Cellist of Sarajevo

A Novel

Book - 2008
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This brilliant novel with universal resonance tells the story of three people trying to survive in a city rife with the extreme fear of desperate times, and of the sorrowing cellist who plays undaunted in their midst.

One day a shell lands in a bread line and kills twenty-two people as the cellist watches from a window in his flat. He vows to sit in the hollow where the mortar fell and play Albinoni's Adagio once a day for each of the twenty-two victims. The Adagio had been re-created from a fragment after the only extant score was firebombed in the Dresden Music Library, but the fact that it had been rebuilt by a different composer into something new and worthwhile gives the cellist hope.

Meanwhile, Kenan steels himself for his weekly walk through the dangerous streets to collect water for his family on the other side of town, and Dragan, a man Kenan doesn't know, tries to make his way towards the source of the free meal he knows is waiting. Both men are almost paralyzed with fear, uncertain when the next shot will land on the bridges or streets they must cross, unwilling to talk to their old friends of what life was once like before divisions were unleashed on their city. Then there is "Arrow," the pseudonymous name of a gifted female sniper, who is asked to protect the cellist from a hidden shooter who is out to kill him as he plays his memorial to the victims.

In this beautiful and unforgettable novel, Steven Galloway has taken an extraordinary, imaginative leap to create a story that speaks powerfully to the dignity and generosity of the human spirit under extraordinary duress.


From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: Toronto, ON : Knopf Canada : 2008
ISBN: 9780307397041
9781594489860
9780307397034
Branch Call Number: FIC Gall
Characteristics: 261p

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w
wyenotgo
Jul 03, 2017

While I understand what Galloway was attempting to do, I don't really feel that he succeeded. As a paean to "the human spirit in the face of adversity" it doesn't really work, because all of the three protagonists as well as the cellist remain incomplete figures; all they do is remain biologically alive (at least for a while). Although the well-publicized story of the cellist was intended to be inspiring, in reality it achieved nothing. The world listened, tisk-tisked and moved on to the next bit of entertainment. What this novel does accomplished may not have been what the writer intended: He succeeds in demonstrating that there are no good guys vs. bad guys on the two sides in a war. Both combatants are victims of a conflagration created by others for their own benefit. The criminals, gangsters, black-marketeers and savvy "businessmen" profit from the human misery they set in motion and the greater the death, destruction, mayhem and brutality, the bigger the profit. There are no heroes in Galloway's story. So in the end, this is a monumentally depressing tale. Galloway is a skillful writer and he did the best he could with a regrettable episode in humanity's disgraceful history.

s
spiderfelt_0
Jan 30, 2017

This account of a brief event in the four-year siege of Sarajevo left me wondering how anyone survived with their sanity intact. The constant stress under which the citizens of Sarajevo lived was monumental. Told from the point of view of three different characters who observe the same individual, the eponymous cellist, the reader inhabits the city with them as they struggle to obtain the bare necessities: bread, and water. While inspired by actual events, the story is fiction. What makes this story so stunning is the way the author inhabits the various points of view with conviction. He brings to life the horror of war in a way that I have not anywhere else.

b
becker
Jan 08, 2017

This book centres around 4 main characters and their struggle to survive during the siege of Sarajevo. It is a moving book that shows the courage people can muster even in times of the deepest fear. Where simply trying to get water to keep your family alive means putting your life at great risk. It is a great glimpse into the hearts and minds of the people of Sarajevo and what it must have been like to live through that siege.

athompson10 Nov 25, 2016

Beautifully written. A short, sad tribute to the Sarajevo that was and four of its inhabitants struggling to make sense of life under siege.

AL_LESLEY Nov 09, 2016

Though the subject matter has impact the writing and characters do not. All 3 characters have practically identical thoughts, actions, reasons... there are no personalities. The writing is dry, clipped and repetitive. I struggled to read this one. Moments that could have been great, like when one of them turns against a building to avoid someone they new before the war or when another (or the same one, who knows) is left holding the hat of a dead man and doesn't know how, are wasted and written without any emotional power in them. A lot of things 'seem' this or 'seem' that. Telling not showing DRYDRYDRY. Somebody could have made a very moving book with this historical event but this isn't it.

m
mdextras
Aug 21, 2016

Sarajevo is not the only city to have endured a siege, and there are presently cities such as Allepo in Syria that are under siege right now. How lucky we are to live in a country such as Canada.

The book is well written. Mr. Galloway chose three main characters that give us different outlooks on the everyday life of a city under siege. It is depressing to read but difficult to put down. I wanted to see if there was any hope left, if people could see an end to the death and destruction. Each came to a time that they could no longer live with fear but there is no hope in this story.

d
DesLi
May 25, 2016

The Cellist of Sarajevo was well written. The lives of 4 completely different people in the same situation, the emotion of a cellist and the 3 year long siege of Sarajevo are all compressed into one month and into a single book. After reading, one may feel that one has lived through the siege of the city Sarajevo. This book is definitely a great read! (Note: This book has very little to do with music.)

BostonPL_LauraB Mar 29, 2016

This was an excellent portrait of a city under siege, and the daily life of trying to survive. How things like standing in line for bread, or trekking to the brewery to fill up bottles of water for your household were matters of life and death. This short novel brings up a lot of questions and thoughts about war and how one is supposed to feel and act during it, and what possibly comes after. It was beautiful, I would recommend it.

h
haileyj
Feb 12, 2016

This is such a well-written book it is as if the author was there. The 3 year siege of Sarajevo has been compressed into one month to tell the story of daily life in the middle of a war zone. It describes beautifully the absolute terror, resignation and sometimes normality of living through a constant bombardment and what it can do to the human psyche. I felt as if I lived through it too. One can imagine this is what so many of the refugees coming here have experienced.

v
vcc
Feb 12, 2016

Although just over 250 pages it was well composed in its story, characters, and progression of a fictionalized version of war-torn Sarajevo.

This book takes on deep philosophical meaning. What is the purpose of the cellist who plays each day at 4 p.m.? What is his purpose? Is his playing at all significant to everything going on around him?

This book was very moving and because of this it took me longer to read.

(Read in November 2015)

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ByStephanie
Jul 11, 2015

"There are no heroes, no villains, no cowards. There's what he can do, and what he can't. There's right and wrong and nothing else. The world is binary. Shading will come later.”

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Zentjo10
Sep 19, 2010

"But I think he believed that what he and others suffered there meant something, that people had learned from it. But they haven't" (Galloway 87).

v
vickiz
Sep 07, 2009

Now, however, she knows she wasn't being foolish. She realizes that for no particular reason she stumbled into the core of what it is to be human. It's a rare gift to understand that your life is wondrous, and that it won't last forever.

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Nutty
Feb 15, 2011

Nutty thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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JMJourney
Mar 13, 2012

Canadian Galloway (Ascension) delivers a tense and haunting novel following four people trying to survive war-torn Sarajevo. After a mortar attack kills 22 people waiting in line to buy bread, an unnamed cellist vows to play at the point of impact for 22 days. Meanwhile, Arrow, a young woman sniper, picks off soldiers; Kenan makes a dangerous trek to get water for his family; and Dragan, who sent his wife and son out of the city at the start of the war, works at a bakery and trades bread in exchange for shelter. Arrow's assigned to protect the cellist, but when she's eventually ordered to commit a different kind of killing, she must decide who she is and why she kills. Dragan believes he can protect himself through isolation, but that changes when he runs into a friend of his wife's attempting to cross a street targeted by snipers. Kenan is repeatedly challenged by his fear and a cantankerous neighbor. All the while, the cellist continues to play. With wonderfully drawn characters and a stripped-down narrative, Galloway brings to life a distant conflict.

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