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The Cellist of Sarajevo

Steven Galloway

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Atlantic Books

Published : 2009

Copyright : Steven Galloway 2008

ISBN-10 : PB 1-84354-741-4
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-84354-741-9

Publisher's Write-Up

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.

Told with immediacy, grace and harrowing emotional accuracy, The Cellist of Sarajevo shows how, when the everyday act of crossing the street can risk lives, the human spirit is revealed in all its fortitude - and frailty.

'A gripping story of Sarajevo under siege.'

J. M Coetzee

'A grand and powerful novel about how people retain or reclaim their humanity when they are under extreme duress... Galloway's novel does the work of a good fiction: it transports you to a situation that might be alien to you, makes it familiar, and so brings understanding. While reading The Cellist of Sarajevo you are imaginatively there, in Sarajevo, as the mortar shells are falling and snipers are seeking to kill you as you cross a street. Your mind's eye sees, your moral sense is outraged: your full humanity is being exercised.'

Yann Martel

'Though the setting is the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s, this gripping novel transcends time and place. It is a universal story, and a testimony to the struggle to find meaning, grace, and humanity, even amid the most unimaginable horrors.'

Khaled Hosseini
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Ben Macnair (040217) Rating (8/10)

Review by Ben Macnair
Book Source: Not Known
Rating 8/10

The Cellist of Sarajevo is partly based on fact, everyday the cellist goes into the streets of Sarajevo, and plays Albinoni’s Adagio, to remind the people of Sarajevo that even though they are in danger, there is still some beauty in the world, he plays it for 22 days, at the same time, and at the same place to remember the 22 people who lost their lives.

The story has three main characters, who each relate to the story. There is Arrow, a talented shot, who is recruited to keep the snipers away. Her problems with being a hired killer add a lot to the story, then there is Kenan, who has to cross the city to get water every day, and has to risk the snipers, and sudden death, and finally there is Dragan, who does not who out of his friends he can trust. Arrow has to keep the Cellist alive, so she protects him from the snipers, but without him knowing about her, whilst the challenges of everyday life are vividly drawn. Crossing the road is a constant danger for pedestrians, as the snipers wait for them to cross, whilst the country is in a state of turmoil, the Cellist continues to play, constantly kept alive by Arrow, but the book does not stay away from the realities of life either, and the ending of the novel is particularly moving.

Although the book is based on fact, a lot of liberties have also been taken, to add to the story of the Cellist (who escaped from Sarajevo, eventually, ending up in Dublin).

The book is very well written, it is immediate, and touching, and shows the strength of the human spirit when faced with the adversity that wars bring.
Ben Macnair (4th February 2017)

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