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.
Arrow blinks. She has been waiting for a long time. Through the scope of her rifle she can see three soldiers standing beside a low wall on a hill above Sarajevo. One looks at the city as though he's remembering something. One holds out a lighter so another can light a cigarette. It's obvious they have no idea they're in her sights. Perhaps, she thinks, they believe they're too far from the front line. They're wrong. Perhaps they think no one could thread a bullet between the buildings that separate them from her. Again, they're wrong. She can kill any one of them, and maybe ...
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).
Full Review (1386 words).
The Siege of Sarajevo
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 ...
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