The Cellist Of Sarajevo by Steven GallowayThe Cellist Of Sarajevo by Steven Gallowaysticker-burst

The Cellist Of Sarajevo

bySteven Galloway

Paperback | February 6, 2009

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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.
Steven Galloway is the author of Finnie Walsh, Ascension and The Cellist of Sarajevo.
Title:The Cellist Of SarajevoFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:272 pages, 7.98 × 5.41 × 0.77 inShipping dimensions:7.98 × 5.41 × 0.77 inPublished:February 6, 2009Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307397041

ISBN - 13:9780307397041


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unique One of the first books I had to read for school that I enjoyed. The novel is set up in a very intriguing manner that makes it hard to put down.
Date published: 2018-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read! Very well-written and interesting. Couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2018-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A true masterpiece From the first page, I knew I would love this book. The characters are unique, interesting, and entirely believable. The story is touching and shows how humanity can prevail amidst chaos, heartache, and challenges. The language is poetic and beautiful. Galloway knows how to use words to subtly weave together emotion, paint a masterpiece, and has created a symphony. He does this with grace, elegance, and is astoundingly simple yet beautiful. I have read this book twice, and can see myself reading it again and again.
Date published: 2018-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling Read The aesthetics of this book are beautiful! the cover's picture extend to the back and along the spine. This size of the book is in between a pocket book and a trade copy size, so a joy to hold! There are four sections to this book each divided with a page that begins as black and then fading in intensity as the novel progresses. Each chapter has the names of the four main characters in faded type on the right hand side of the page. Depending upon who the chapter is about, the name is highlighted. This book is impactfull in not only the story line but also in the simplicity. This novel illustrates that humanity will always triumph over circumstances.
Date published: 2018-04-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read I read this while travelling in Sarajevo and it certainly painted a vivid picture of the city and the terrain. When something as mundane as going to the bakery for bread means chancing an encounter with sniper puts things in persepective.
Date published: 2017-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling I bought the book in store, sat down in the attached Starbucks and I didn't put it down until I was finished. My dad is a massive history buff, and I know he would find this book a great read. It was so sad, so real, and so tragic. I give this book a 10/10, and I would even read it again. A must have for your home library.
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable read I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters developed smoothly and in a likeable way. While this book is based on true stories, it may not be historically accurate. Then again, the author claims liberties were taken due to lack of information and facts. If you enjoyed “The Women in the Castle”, this book has a similar feel. I would recommend. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-10-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from hated i disliked this book so much. the writing was boring and repetitive. would not recommend.
Date published: 2017-09-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting read I enjoyed this novel; however, I believed that the plot was fairly predictable. I was hoping for more of a shock when reading this novel.
Date published: 2017-08-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Average After having read enough from authors who lived through the Balkans Wars, I found this thoroughly disappointing. You also have to verify the accounts that Galloway gives because there has been much contention from the original "Cellist of Sarajevo" who resides in Ireland now, that Galloway overly romanticized his part of the book. If anyone is looking to read more on this check out, check out Slavenka Drakulic's book, "They Would Never Hurt a Fly."
Date published: 2017-07-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from good beautifully written about a different time in Sarajevo.
Date published: 2017-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from really well written The time jumps were a little confusing at first but later on they became more understandable. The book is excellent and the stories were fascinating
Date published: 2017-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Character Great character development with an interesting plotline.
Date published: 2017-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Character Great character development with an interesting plotline.
Date published: 2017-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great novel for lovers of non-fiction I typically gravitate towards non-ficton, biographies. This one was great though.
Date published: 2017-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A worthwhile read I don't read many novels, but I'm glad I read this one. The exploration of characters and their responses to the siege, and how they found their humanity in the face of those pressures is inspiring. It all started with one person who played his cello in personal protest against the carnage of war, and ultimately made a difference in many lives. Many lessons here. Read it!
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely beautiful Gives a glimpse into the lives of different people all facing the same challenge. Eloquently written. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting variation of perspectives! I read it a few months ago, and I have to say, it is definitely binge-worthy. It takes you to a whole new place and offers you various character perspectives in the adversity of war.
Date published: 2017-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A beautiful book Such a beautifully written book, and inspiring characters. I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An Important Book A powerful and thought-provoking read. A novel about what it means to be human and remain human in the most difficult circumstances, in times when the whole idea of civilization and the purpose of existing is being questioned. A story about the power of music and its ability to transcend, heal and possess the spirit.
Date published: 2017-02-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Must Read! This is one of those books I just keep coming back to; beautifully written. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2017-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Chilling and real I just flew through this book. I could not put it down. I was pulled into the characters and their unbelievable struggle through war time. The writing is so real you can almost smell the mortars and hear the screams. Chilling and thoroughly real.
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stunning Although this is fiction, it is based on a true events that happened during the genocide. It is a gorgeous account of the horror many people faced during the siege, and it helps outsiders understand the horrors that occurred in Sarajevo at the time.
Date published: 2016-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterfully Written This a such a beautiful book! It is almost musical in how it is written. I was captivated from the start!
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! I loved this book. Such touching and inspiring stories that allow insight to those affected first hand by an ongoing war. Definitely a must read!
Date published: 2016-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pick it up Wow. A harrowing book that I flew through because the writing was so poignant, so crisp. I love how Galloway grounds you into the memorable characters’ lives as well as the beleaguered city’s. Impressive storytelling.
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pick it up A wonderful novel! Steven Galloway paints vivid and haunting images of a city torn apart by a war many of us know little about. I found myself torn between reading on and hoping over to my computer to google facts and figures and images from the conflict. The portraits of the four main characters are incredible and will stay with me for a long time. Unanimous thumbs up from my book club too.
Date published: 2014-01-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good tale on finding humanity in an inhumane situation I was spurred to read The Cellist of Sarajevo after my city, Calgary, selected it for its "One Book, One City" read this year. At first blush, there seemed to be little in common between Calgary and a city with centuries of history that underwent a brutal siege for over three years. However, Steven Galloway's tale achieves one of the best feats of literature - it transports the reader to a story that might be unfamiliar, but immerses you in an environment that allows you to understand the thoughts and feelings of its characters. In so doing, he helps you discover (or at least contemplate) the decisions, challenges, fear, and ultimately hope that marked this tragic but important chapter in human history. The Cellist of Sarajevo is a tale told from the alternating perspectives of three characters living under siege: Arrow, a young woman who is a uniquely gifted sniper, but struggles with the moral aspects of her role as a defender of the city; Kenan, a father who must risk his life to get water for his family and neighbour; and Dragan, an elderly man whose family escaped the city as war broke out. Each of these characters deals with trying to live in a broken city, with an ever-present menace from the anonymous "men on the hills" surrounding Sarajevo that threaten residents with snipers and mortar fire. The novel chronicles the effect of this constant uncertainty of life and death extremely well - we can understand how each of the characters alternatively is paralyzed by fear, tempted to hate "the other", and give up on an ideal of Sarajevo as a caring, nurturing city. In fact, this is the central struggle that unites all three characters - how do you maintain a sense of humanity in an environment where survival is so precarious? Ultimately, each of the characters encounters the cellist of Sarajevo, a man who responds to a mortar attack on the Sarajevo market by playing Albinoni's Adagio in G in an exposed public square every day for 22 days - one for each of the attack's victims. In their own way, the characters must decide for themselves how they respond to the daily tragedies that they are witnesses to. This novel is an excellent, quick read; however, there are a couple elements that I wish would have been more fully explored. For one, Galloway takes a while to develop the initial state of the three characters - how they initially react to their difficult situations - but each of them undergoes a quick transition in worldview near the end of the novel. While this fits into the "tale"-like feel of this short novel, I think it misses a chance to explore the more complicated process by which people change. As well, Kenan and Dragan often seemed to overlap in personality; with only three main characters to tell the story, this seems to be a missed opportunity to explore another facet of the war. However, Arrow's character is beautifully rendered, and more fully explores some of the subtle but important tensions of being under siege and defending the city, all while searching for what it is that makes life worth living.
Date published: 2011-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The chilling reality of war A great novel from a Canadian author about the human toll paid during the Siege of Sarajevo that tore the city apart in the 1990s. "The Cellist of Sarajevo" is not about the war itself, as much as it is about the people who suffered though daily mortar and sniper attacks, just trying to survive.
Date published: 2011-02-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Something different This is a different kind of book. Told from three different perspectives by people entirely unknown to each other, it follows the lives of two men and a woman as they try to survive during the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990's. Unlike most stories that flourish either on despair or on a hope and happiness that is entirely unbelievable, this one finds a middle ground that is very refreshing. The characters have no choice but to despair, but somehow find the strength to keep themselves going, one day at a time.
Date published: 2011-01-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good and worth reading... but not as good as I thought it would be. I'm trying to figure out why it didn't resonate more with me... and I think its because of the female sniper character. I loved the concept of the cellist, and the 3 characters struggling to live 'normally' in a time of war. I empathized with Kenan, the man who gets water daily, so completely, and the other man's story -- of a task so daunting and yet so simple -- crossing a street -- really gave me pause. But the young woman sniper I struggled with. I think I understand Galloway's point -- that war makes a person into another person entirely. And she didn't want to become the person that war necessitated her to be... but it was just told so coldly. Almost without emotion. Maybe that was the point... Still, fantastic writing and a good story worth reading. I'm glad I did.
Date published: 2011-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Vivid Story Galloway provides a vivid, intense, and often haunting view into the minds and lives of civilians affected by war. In an oddly scary romanatic tone of writing, Galloway tells a story of people doing whatever it takes to survive war and the struggle to keep their own sanity. At times, it is a hard book to read simply due to the topic. However, I felt the book was impossible to put down once started and impossible to forget. A very good book!!
Date published: 2010-12-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A must read for any human being. Years after having first read this novel, I still find myself telling people about it. Galloway's writing is so simple and consistent that when you look at it you think, "this will only take me a few days." And it will, but not because it's an easy read. The concepts of this book are those of war, he seamlessly drops you into the shoes of a female assassin trying to protect her target, a man trying to get water for his family, and someone else who is just trying to get across a street corner. This book is strong and powerful, almost terrifyingly so. Do not let it deceive you, but do not under-appreciate it's value. When people say that books can take you to another time and place, they're talking about this one.
Date published: 2010-08-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok As far as war stories go, this was a good one. I read it because it was the choice of my book-club, and I found it had potential. It reads like a collection of short stories though, not so much as a complete story. It was all right, but I was not blown away.
Date published: 2010-05-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I can’t say I’m overly excited about the book. It is 1992 and a time of war in Sarajevo. 22 people who were simply standing in line for bread were killed when a bomb hit. A cellist saw it happen from his apartment across the street and decides to play on the street at the same time each day, for 22 days – one day for each of the people who died. The book actually follows three other people more closely: Arrow, a sniper; Kenan, who has a family and must make a potentially deadly trip every few days to retrieve water; and Dragan, who works at a bakery, and is able to eat for free at that bakery. I can’t say I’m overly excited about the book. It was o.k., but not much really happened. I guess it kind of gave me a look at day-to-day life in a war zone. I found I couldn’t really connect with the characters, though. It often felt sort of surreal, like the characters themselves were watching a movie; it didn’t feel to me like they were living it, and I think that’s why I couldn’t connect. But, it was fast to read and it was interesting to learn in the afterword, that there really was a cellist in Sarajevo who played for 22 days in remembrance of the people in the bread line who died.
Date published: 2010-04-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Cellist of Sarajevo, Bravo! I bought this book not knowing what to expect. I am so glad I bought it. It was a nice surprise indeed. The book is very descriptive and it's told from three different POVs. I liked Galloway's writing style, I found it light and fresh. I appreciated that Galloway still managed to talk about love, survival, hope, and the human spirit in spite of a grim theme such as war.
Date published: 2010-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting look into war from every day people It's the height of the siege on Sarajevo and Galloway tells the story of three different people living in the city and how war affects their life. Kenan's story is about how troublesome it is to get water in a city under fire. At every intersection, Kenan fears for his life and sees others die as they are picked off by snipers in the hill. Kenan gets water for himself and his elderly neighbour and is upset by what his city has become. Dragan has managed to get his family out of the city but remains there. While going to buy bread he sees someone that he knew before the war and catches up with her, then watches a horrific scene unfold before him. Finally, there's Arrow, one of the best snipers in Sarajevo. She's gotten away with choosing her own targets and taking out the men on the hills as she chooses, however when she is finally given an objective her perspective changes. After a bombing at the bread store, killing 22 people, a cellist decides to pay at that site for the next 22 days. Arrow is told to protect the cellist from any attacks. The climax in this book was very subtle, which I'm usually not a fan of, but the entire premise of the book was very interesting. Reading about what it's like to live in a war zone is quite scary and it's no wonder that the character started to zone out from life after a while. I did have problems remembering the differences between Kenan and Dragan at the beginning but eventually got into the groove of the book. It had a strong message and one that was communicated in an understandable way.
Date published: 2009-11-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Cellist of Sarajevo This novel tells the story of three people trying to survive in Sarajevo during the siege. One day a shell lands and kills twenty-two people waiting in line for bread, as the cellist watches from a window in his apartment. 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. Arrow, a female sniper, is asked to protect the cellist from a hidden shooter who is out to kill the cellist. Until now Arrow has been able to pick her own targets. She is now assigned a target and her whole life changes. Kenan must navigate the dangerous streets to order to get water for his family and an elderly neighbour. At each intersection Kenan is paralyzed with fear as he watches people crossing get picked off by the snipers in the hills. Dragon is out on the streets to go and get a free meal if he can only get there. His family has escaped the city. As he waits at an intersection he meets an old friend only to watch her get gunned down. This novel brings the horrific and scary aspects of war and strife to the forefront. It is truly amazing what the people of Sarajevo endured. I found the ending of the book unsatisfying as there really was no ending. Aside: It is very interesting that a Canadian author with an 'English' last name is writing so intensely about a war in Sarajevo.
Date published: 2009-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Centered on the conflict in Sarajevo, the story is recounting the struggle of three inhabitants during the city’s siege during the mid 1990’s: a female sniper called Arrow, Kenan a father on a trip to get water for his family and his neighbour and Dragan, a baker on his way to work. Uniting the story threads is a renowned cellist who witnessed the killed 22 people while they were waiting in line to buy bread. To commemorate each victim, he decided to play his instrument once a day in the crater left by the mortar shell. This work of fiction highlights the harsh situations ordinary people are forced to endure during the time of civil unrest and how they adapt in order to survive. How each individual controls hate and tries to remain human facing the horrific atrocities of war. Mr Galloway avoided labelling his main characters with ethnic qualifications by simply naming them Sarajevans and calling their enemies “the men on the hills”. The prose is exquisite and quite moving; it is difficult to avoid wondering how one would react under similar circumstances. This is one brilliant tale that chronicles the evils of war and draws attention to the courage and spirit people inherently have within them. This is one strong, powerful and utterly amazing novel.
Date published: 2009-09-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Inspire us to rise above mere existence The Cellist of Sarajevo celebrates the spirit of human resilience and strength that enable us to act nobly with compassion and to rise above mere existence. Sarajevo is the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The story was set at the time when Sarajevo was under-siege during the Bosnian War. The author shared three parallel stories encircling a cellist, who decided to risk his life performing at a bomb site for twenty two days. Not a word on judging the political environment of the war. Not a word on who's right or wrong. Even the motive of the cellist was never explicitly spelled out - was it to commemorate the death, to resist injustice, to demonstrate the human strive for peace, or all of the above? We can all feel the unspoken, as we share common humanity. Reading the Cellist of Sarajevo, even if we are ignorant of its historical background, we would not be able to escape being inspired and uplifted by the magical spirit of its message.
Date published: 2009-07-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from the music of hope The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (Book Review) The Cellist of Sarajevo is a fictional account of the Siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s. It is beautifully written by Steven Galloway and published by Atlantic Books. Its ISBN is 1843547414. The book's theme is the destruction and carnage of war and the fragility of life. From the three characters Arrow, Dragan and Kenan we get their different perspectives of the civil war and its daily struggles to retain humantity and survival. 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. The cellist plays his music at the same spot in the bread line for 22 days where 22 people were killed. It is the music of hope and of inspiration and Arrow the counter sniper protects the cellist and thus her city and culture. Everyday basic needs like electricity and water are gone, family are suffering or in exile and yet they struggle to retain humantity and joy in the little things of life.It is a sad and moving book that transends time and place. Reviewed by Annette Dunlea author of Always and Forever and The Honey Trap
Date published: 2009-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing I am not normally a war book kind of person but this was so good I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2009-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I chose this for our book club read for June! This is a very well written precise book. I like historical fiction and I am happy it is a Canadian writer. I think the book club will give it the 5 maple leaves that I have.
Date published: 2009-04-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from OK The writing is absoluty beautiful. But I find that the book drags on a bit too much. It is not a book that I would highly recommend. I was disappointed because at the beginning you get into the story right away - then it slows down. I am almost finished the book. I would give this book 3 stars.
Date published: 2009-04-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointed My expectations of this book caused me to be dissappointed. This story is about the siege of Sarajevo and how 4 people cope in everyday life. In my opinion this book is more of an account of each character, which I think lead to my dissapointment. Being a fan of historical fiction, I felt alot more could have been done with this to bring the book to another level.
Date published: 2009-03-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Feeling Ripped Off I bought this book because of the title, and the flyleaf, and the promotions, indicating this was a story about a cellist. I was looking forward to reading why a man would choose to play his cello for 22 days in a row to honour each person who died waiting in a bread line. I expected to read more about the cellist himself, and I expected the book to be about him. It wasn't. It's about three people, one trying to get water who has no idea what the cellist is doing until the end of the book, another is someone trying to cross the street and not get shot who hasn't a clue about the cellist either, and the third is a sniper sent to protect the cellist from another sniper. I still don't know why the cellist chose to play his music or how he felt afterward... and I wanted to know - which is why I bought the book. If you're a fan of Galloway's writing then buy this book, it's well written, but if you want to know about the cellist, as the title indicates, then don't waste your time reading it. It's a good story but not the one I expected to read.
Date published: 2009-03-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from the horrible things we do to each other.... Heather Reisman, CEO of Chapters/Indigo/Coles chose The Cellist of Sarajevo as one of her Picks. A Heather’s Pick, as you probably already know, is a guaranteed read: if you read it and don’t like it, bring it back to the store for a refund. The thing is, though, Heather has pretty good taste. This book, by Canadian author Steven Galloway, is immensely readable and despite its depiction of the desolation and horrors of war, the book is ultimately hopeful. Interestingly the premise of the book is simple, so simple in fact that in less skilled hands it might have been a bit of a dog’s breakfast. The cellist of the title (as a character) features only nominally in the novel. The book is actually concerned with the fortunes of three people: Arrow, a young female sniper; Kenan, a father who goes out to get water for his wife and children and an elderly neighbour and Dragan, an older man on his way to the bakery where he works. The novel alternates between characters, allowing the reader to spend time with and get to know each of them. Truthfully, despite the fact that I am certainly old enough, I know very little about the conflict in Sarajevo. I guess I tend to bury my head in the sand when any sort of conflict takes place. I want the world to be a shiny, happy place where people get along. If, like me, you’re sketchy on the details you can read about the conflict here: I guess my desire for a conflict-free world is why I found this book so moving. Spend a few hours with Kenan as he braves the streets, making a treacherous journey to the brewery to collect fresh water for his family. He’s a father who only want to keep his children safe, feed and clothe them. As a mother, I can relate to that. But I live in Canada. When I want water I turn on the tap. I don’t risk death to visit a market where, if I’m lucky, I might score a bag of over-priced rice. I am not elated when the elecrticity comes on, allowing me the ability to charge my radio so that I can listen to the news. Galloway’s book allows us a glimpse into these hardships which happened not fifty years ago…but in the last decade! What kind of world do we live in that we allow this to happen? (That’s a rhetorical question, of course, impossible to answer.) Each of Galloway’s characters is fully realized- complicated, angry, depressed, determined, and hopeful. Although he plays a minor part in the drama, the cellist of the title is actually the thread that binds these characters who are, otherwise, unknown to each other. The cellist plays Adagio in G Minor every afternoon at 4pm for 22 days to mark the deaths of 22 people who were killed while waiting in line to buy bread. It is his music that lifts the spirits of the three main characters and the others who come to hear him play. Perhaps Galloway is saying that our appreciation of music, art of any sort, is what makes us human. While war certainly brings out the worst in people, it also allows us the opportunity to appreciate what we often take for granted. For 22 days, the cellist was able to remind the people struggling to get by in a city they no longer recognized as their own that they were alive. It’s a beautiful novel.
Date published: 2009-03-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Moved by this compelling story I read this book because it was on Heather's List and I was quite impressed. Although I thought the book would be much more about the Cellist it was moving the way Galloway talked about three other people who were all in some way affected by him. The Cellist of Sarajevo shows that even in times of war people can still act in human waves and do not fulling lose themselves. Great and quick read....finished it in a day!
Date published: 2009-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Story About Humanity I read "The Cellist of Sarajevo" in one sitting and I have to say that it was the most emotionally invested I've been in recent memory over a novel. Set during the siege of Sarajevo during the early 90s, the fictional story of three main characters and a lone cellist will make you think more about what it means to be human, what humans are capable of at their worst and at their best. Throughout the novel, Galloway drops a few philosophical hints here and there. Issues of moral ambiguity, existentialism, and human nature are peppered throughout the stories. Definitely a novel that can be dissected for its more deeper meanings. As for the writing, I found Galloway to be superb in the way he described some of the more terrible scenes of carnage. Also, the struggle for survival and the motives behind each character are very well developed. As mentioned, there is a deep emotional attachment as a reader towards the characters in the novel. Overall I can find no fault at all with "The Cellist of Sarajevo." I would not be surprised to see this book turned into a movie someday, just a wonderful story of what it means to be a human being.
Date published: 2009-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from an eye opener I read this book not knowing what to expect. This is so different from any book I have ever read. The characters in this book are constantly fighting for their lives knowing they could be killed in an instant. I cried at the end of this book and I still think about the characters today. This book impacted my life in so many ways.
Date published: 2008-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great read. The Cellist of Sarajevo is a very moving book which deals with very real human emotions and survival instincts during the siege of Sarajevo. It is based upon a true event and is a must read!
Date published: 2008-08-08

Read from the Book

The CellistIt screamed downward, splitting air and sky without effort. A target expanded in size, brought into focus by time and velocity. There was a moment before impact that was the last instant of things as they were. Then the visible world exploded.In 1945, an Italian musicologist found four bars of a sonata’s bass line in the remnants of the firebombed Dresden Music Library. He believed these notes were the work of the seventeenth-century Venetian composer Tomaso Albinoni, and spent the next twelve years reconstructing a larger piece from the charred manuscript fragment. The resulting composition, known as Albinoni’s Adagio, bears little resemblance to most of Albinoni’s work and is considered fraudulent by most scholars. But even those who doubt its authenticity have difficulty denying the Adagio’s beauty.Nearly half a century later, it’s this contradiction that appeals to the cellist. That something could be almost erased from existence in the landscape of a ruined city, and then rebuilt until it is new and worthwhile, gives him hope. A hope that, now, is one of a limited number of things remaining for the besieged citizens of Sarajevo and that, for many, dwindles each day.And so today, like every other day in recent memory, the cellist sits beside the window of his second-floor apartment and plays until he feels his hope return. He rarely plays the Adagio. Most days he’s able to feel the music rejuvenate him as simply as if he were filling a car with gasoline. But some days this isn’t the case. If, after several hours, this hope doesn’t return, he will pause to gather himself, and then he and his cello will coax Albinoni’s Adagio out of the firebombed husk of Dresden and into the mortar-pocked, sniper-infested streets of Sarajevo. By the time the last few notes fade, his hope will be restored, but each time he’s forced to resort to the Adagio it becomes harder, and he knows its effect is finite. There are only a certain number of Adagios left in him, and he will not recklessly spend this precious currency.It wasn’t always like this. Not long ago the promise of a happy life seemed almost inviolable. Five years ago at his sister’s wedding, he’d posed for a family photograph, his father’s arm slung behind his neck, fingers grasping his shoulder. It was a firm grip, and to some it would have been painful, but to the cellist it was the opposite. The fingers on his flesh told him that he was loved, that he had always been loved, and that the world was a place where above all else the things that were good would find a way to burrow into you. Though he knew all of this then, he would give up nearly anything to be able to go back in time and slow down that moment, if only so he could more clearly recall it now. He would very much like to feel his father’s hand on his shoulder again.He can tell today won’t be an Adagio day. It has been only a half-hour since he sat down beside the window, but already he feels a little bit better. Outside, a line of people wait to buy bread. It’s been over a week since the market’s had any bread to buy, and he considers whether he might join them. Many of his friends and neighbours are in line. He decides against it, for now. There’s still work to do.It screamed downward, splitting air and sky without effort. A target expanded in size, brought into focus by time and velocity. There was a moment before impact that was the last instant of things as they were. Then the visible world exploded.When the mortars destroyed the Sarajevo Opera Hall, the cellist felt as if he were inside the building, as if the bricks and glass that once bound the structure together became projectiles that sliced and pounded into him, shredding him beyond recognition. He was the principal cellist of the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra. That was what he knew how to be. He made the idea of music an actuality. When he stepped on stage in his tuxedo he was transformed into an instrument of deliverance. He gave to the people who came to listen what he loved most in the world. He was as solid as the vice of his father’s hand.Now he doesn’t care whether anyone hears him play or not. His tuxedo hangs in the closet, untouched. The guns perched on the hills surrounding Sarajevo have dismantled him just as they have the opera hall, just as they have his family home in the night while his father and mother slept, just as they will, eventually, everything.The geography of the siege is simple. Sarajevo is a long ribbon of flat land surrounded on all sides by hills. The men on the hills control all the high ground and one peninsula of level ground in the middle of the city, Grbavica. They fire bullets and mortars and tank shells and grenades into the rest of the city, which is being defended by one tank and small hand-held weapons. The city is being destroyed.The cellist doesn’t know what is about to happen. Initially the impact of the shell won’t even register. For a long time he’ll stand at his window and stare. Through the carnage and confusion he’ll notice a woman’s handbag, soaked in blood and sparkled with broken glass. He won’t be able to tell whom it belongs to. Then he’ll look down and see he has dropped his bow on the floor, and somehow it will seem to him that there’s a great connection between these two objects. He won’t understand what the connection is, but the feeling that it exists will compel him to undress, walk to the closet and pull the dry cleaner’s plastic from his tuxedo.He will stand at the window all night and all through the next day. Then, at four o’clock in the afternoon, twenty-four hours after the mortar fell on his friends and neighbours while they waited to buy bread, he will bend down and pick up his bow. He will carry his cello and stool down the narrow flight of stairs to the empty street. The war will go on around him as he sits in the small crater left at the mortar’s point of impact. He’ll play Albinoni’s Adagio. He’ll do this every day for twenty-two days, a day for each person killed. Or at least he’ll try. He won’t be sure he will survive. He won’t be sure he has enough Adagios left.The cellist doesn’t know any of this now, as he sits at his window in the sun and plays. He isn’t yet aware. But it’s already on its way. It screams downward, splitting air and sky without effort. A target expands in size, brought into focus by time and velocity. There is a moment before impact that is the last instant of things as they are. Then the visible world explodes.

Editorial Reviews

"For historians, the siege of Sarajevo might seem the appropriate finale of the century that invented world wars, nuclear arms and planet destruction. That is precisely the reason why Sarajevo should belong to artists and not experts. In this vivid, passionate and generous novel Galloway takes us there, to the very streets of the besieged city. Snipers above us, cameras among us, shards of dreams beneath us, and each wrong step can lead to death or, worse, loss of dignity."—Dragan Todorovic, author of The Book of Revenge"Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo is a wonderful story, a tribute to the human spirit in the face of insanity."—Kevin Baker, author of Dreamland and Paradise Alley"A gripping story of Sarajevo under siege."—J. M. Coetzee“I cannot imagine a lovelier, more beautifully wrought book about the depravity of war as The Cellist of Sarajevo. Each chapter is a brief glimpse at yet another aspect of the mind, the heart, the soul -- altogether Galloway gives us fine, deep notes of human music which will remain long after the final page.” — ZZ Packer“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, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns“Steven Galloway is a precocious writer of astonishing talent and creative imagination whose third novel lives up, in every respect, to the high bar set by his first two. The Cellist of Sarajevo captures with taut, painstaking clarity the events and atmosphere surrounding the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s. . . . Galloway once again shows himself to be as gifted as he is fearless. If it weren’t for the fact that he teaches creative writing, I’d say it was time to give up his day job.” — Emily Donaldson, Quill & Quire (starred review)“A darkly powerful novel about the insanity of war, the anonymous dying of a city under siege. Written with elegance and style, it is an unforgettable story about our limitless human spirit in a time of tragedy.” –Owen Sound Sun Times“A story that speaks to the dignity and generosity of the human spirit under duress.” –The Guelph Mercury “Gripping. . . . Every action, no matter how mundane, is charged with tension. . . . Galloway has shown that contemporary fiction can move beyond the minute examination of self and relationship. We are asked to gaze, instead, on a city, a society, in the process of being destroyed, and on the tiny human gestures that represent the only means to repair the damage.” –National Post “Although Galloway’s characters weigh the value of their lives against the choices they must make, he effectively creates a fifth character in the city itself, capturing the details among the rubble and destruction that give added weight to his memorable novel.” –Booklist“Undeniably suspenseful.” –The Sydney Morning Herald“A grand and powerful novel about how people retain or reclaim their humanity when they are under extreme duress.” –Yann Martel’s pick for“Galloway delivers a tense and haunting novel. . . . With wonderfully drawn characters and a stripped-down narrative, Galloway brings to life a distant conflict.” - Publishers Weekly “A novel about trying to cross the street. The description, though, does not do justice to Galloway’s spare, elegant prose or to the haunting images the author creates in this fine and affecting novel.” –Edmonton Journal“At once an expansion and a deepening of the thematic concerns that weave themselves throughout his work and a glittering testament to the power of art to counteract hatred and division. . . . Galloway’s novel, bursting with life, is a vivid reminder of the power of art to dispel the darkness.” –The Vancouver Sun“[V]ery nearly perfect, a galvanizing examination of the strength of the human heart, and the possibility of the survival of the human spirit in the most dire of circumstances. It will be impossible for readers not to imagine themselves in these characters’ shoes, wondering what they would do in similar circumstances. That personalization, which creates an understanding of a tragedy previously only glanced over in the pages of the morning paper, is, in itself, the highest of achievements.” –Ottawa Citizen“Written in visceral, cinematic prose . . . Galloway’s compassionate story about the consequences of war is riveting from beginning to end. It will undoubtedly linger in the minds of many readers long after they finish it.” –Winnipeg Free Press“Sensuous and precise, Galloway’s prose captures the unbidden movement between personal and public space, the contradiction of being trapped in a city one would not think of leaving, even if one could. This portrayal of what it’s like to live in the despair of the present, but with an unkillable knowledge that things can be otherwise, is what connects Galloway’s characters–and his novel–with the mission and the legacy of the cellist of its title.” –The Globe and Mail“Perfect in that way only a true story can be. . . . [Galloway] is a surprisingly mature and self-confident storyteller. . . . His writing is meticulous and purposeful. War may be hell, but in this novel it’s an unsentimental, almost pedestrian hell and all the more compelling for it. The Cellist of Sarajevo is a sombre, stirring performance.” –The Gazette (Montreal)From the Hardcover edition.