The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

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Synopsis

A spare and haunting, wise and beautiful novel about war and the endurance of the human spirit and the subtle ways individuals reclaim their humanity.

In a city under siege, four people whose lives have been upended are ultimately reminded of what it is to be human. From his window, a musician sees twenty-two of his friends and neighbors waiting in a breadline. Then, in a flash, they are killed by a mortar attack. In an act of defiance, the man picks up his cello and decides to play at the site of the shelling for twenty-two days, honoring their memory. Elsewhere, a young man leaves home to collect drinking water for his family and, in the face of danger, must weigh the value of generosity against selfish survivalism. A third man, older, sets off in search of bread and distraction and instead runs into a long-ago friend who reminds him of the city he thought he had lost, and the man he once was. As both men are drawn into the orbit of cello music, a fourth character—a young woman, a sniper—holds the fate of the cellist in her hands. As she protects him with her life, her own army prepares to challenge the kind of person she has become.

A novel of great intensity and power, and inspired by a true story, The Cellist of Sarajevo poignantly explores how war can change one’s definition of humanity, the effect of music on our emotional endurance, and how a romance with the rituals of daily life can itself be a form of resistance.
 

About Steven Galloway

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Steven Galloway teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia.
 
Published May 15, 2008 by Riverhead Books. 274 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, War. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Cellist of Sarajevo

Kirkus Reviews

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In tribute, he decides to play his cello in the street for 22 days, which will likely get him killed, given the hordes of snipers waiting in the hills above the city.

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The Guardian

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The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway Atlantic Books £12.99, pp278 Steven Galloway's third novel, set in Bosnia's capital during the civil war of the Nineties, opens with a cellist sitting by a window.

Jun 29 2008 | Read Full Review of The Cellist of Sarajevo

Publishers Weekly

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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.

Feb 06 2008 | Read Full Review of The Cellist of Sarajevo

Book Reporter

Reading THE CELLIST OF SARAJEVO isn’t quite like remembering where you were when John F.

Dec 26 2010 | Read Full Review of The Cellist of Sarajevo

Entertainment Weekly

A stripped-down depiction of the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s, The Cellist of Sarajevo follows a female sniper, a bakery worker, and a young father as they separately wander the once-idyllic city.

May 16 2008 | Read Full Review of The Cellist of Sarajevo

Suite 101

Steven Galloway, who teaches creative writing at UBC, has written a poignant novel about the war in Sarajevo, a horrifying but touching read that can't be put down.

Nov 11 2008 | Read Full Review of The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Bookbag

I was momentarily discouraged to see a quotation from Yann Martel on the front cover, as I never managed to finish The Life of Pi but The Cellist of Sarajevo is a completely different read – and, in my opinion, a much better one.

Oct 24 2009 | Read Full Review of The Cellist of Sarajevo

Oprah.com

The Cellist of Sarajevo (Riverhead) is a novel with four main characters, and the story moves among them, like a complex piece of music.

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Red Room

They long for normaility and through their flashbacks we learn what ordinary life was like in Sarajevo before the civil war.Amidst sniper shots the people travel to work or go and collect water and amidst this chaos there is a cellist.

Jul 09 2009 | Read Full Review of The Cellist of Sarajevo

Nashville Public Library

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Canadian author Steven Galloway, is a brief novel of four ordinary people trying to maintain their humanity in the midst of war.

Jul 01 2010 | Read Full Review of The Cellist of Sarajevo

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Justin Spradling 16 Jul 2013

Rated the book as 3.5 out of 5

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