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 Albinonis 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 doesnt 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.
Every now and then a book comes along that makes such an impression that the reader wants to rush out and buy copies for all their friends. The Cellist of Sarajevo is such a novel. It is a work of rare depth and beauty, and is highly recommended. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
With wonderfully drawn characters and a stripped-down narrative, Galloway brings to life a distant conflict.
Library Journal - Barbara Hoffert
Galloway writes simply and affectingly, occasionally resorting to cliché and just as often hitting a sweet, clear note that makes the siege of Sarajevo very real. For most collections.
Starred Review. Indelible imagery and heartbreaking characters give authority to this chilling story and make human a crisis typically overlooked in literature.
Sydney Morning Herald - Andrew Riemer
Galloway reveals considerable skill in the way he allows these ordinary and by no means exceptional men to act as conduits for his larger preoccupations: the insanity of civil war, the barbarism that always accompanies it and the callousness of those who draw handsome profits from suffering and from disrupted lives. Nothing is overstated here and for that reason Kenan's and Dragan's odysseys (or is it calvaries?) prove all the more memorable.
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.
“A grand and powerful novel about how people retain or reclaim their humanity when they are under extreme duress.
J. M. Coetzee
A gripping story of Sarajevo under siege.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Judy Sandusky The Cellist of Sarajevo This is a magnificent sleeper of a book. I was immediately surprised by the power of the writing and as I continued reading, the story and its characters became stunning to me. One of the best books I've read in a very long time. Unforgettable.
Rated of 5
by Reader Loved it. I thought this was one of the most well-written, thought provoking, and moving books I have read in quite some time.
Rated of 5
by Mary Bentley I disagree I disagree with the previous reviewer, Annie Douglas. I have doubts she even read the book. Rather than rebut her, I will point out that the quality of the writing has been endorsed by Nobel Prize winner J.M Coetzee, Booker Prize winner Yann... Read More
Rated of 5
by Annie Douglas where have all the editors gone? This book is marred by the absence of editing and many language howlers (his movement is slow and stiff -- digestive system still not working?). The female sniper is lifted from the world of action comic books, where she's meant to appeal to the... Read More
continued from main section .... Tito's death in 1980, as well as the collapse of
Communism a decade later, resulted in a power vacuum,
destabilizing the careful balance Tito had created between
the Balkan republics. Ethnic nationalism, brutally repressed
by the prior regime, experienced a resurgence. Slobodan
Milosevic, leader of the Communist Party in Serbia, took
advantage of the instability, eventually taking control of
the region and of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA).
Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, concerned about Milosevic's
growing power, began to move toward independence from
"Greater Serbia". Despite resistance from the JNA, Slovenia,
primarily comprised of ethnic Serbs, achieved independence
in 1989; and Croatia, with only a small non-Serb minority,
followed in 1991. Bloodshed was relatively minimal for these
two countries, due to the homogenous nature of the local
populations, resulting in...
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