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The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

The Cellist of Sarajevo (original 2008; edition 2009)

by Steven Galloway (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,1302053,074 (4.06)442
Title:The Cellist of Sarajevo
Authors:Steven Galloway (Author)
Info:Riverhead Trade (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, Bosnia, Yugoslav War

Work details

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (2008)

  1. 110
    Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (wisewoman)
    wisewoman: In both books, music is a character in its own right, set against a backdrop of human violence and tragedy.
  2. 101
    The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Alliebadger)
    Alliebadger: Both beautifully written accounts of atrocities we never really think about. Each one is a fast and amazing read.
  3. 30
    Pretty Birds by Scott Simon (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Many parallels between The Cellist of Sarajevo and Pretty Birds; the information on the Bosnian civil war in Pretty Birds is more complete and the writing is very good.
  4. 30
    The Siege by Helen Dunmore (gennyt)
    gennyt: Both are stories of cities under siege, and the struggles of ordinary people for survival in dangerous and extreme conditions.
  5. 20
    The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andrić (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Get a more full history of the conflict from this book.
  6. 10
    Girl at War by Sara Novic (Iudita)
  7. 00
    Floating in My Mother's Palm by Ursula Hegi (VivienneR)
  8. 00
    Flights of Passage: Reflections of a World War II Aviator by Samuel Hynes (napgeorge)
    napgeorge: Two books which show the boredom and horror of war. The only two books I have read which reflect what war felt like for me.
  9. 11
    The Archivist's Story by Travis Holland (catherinestead)
    catherinestead: Two gripping portrayals of human reaction to living in a permanent state of tension and danger.
  10. 00
    Between Mountains by Maggie Helwig (yagoder)
  11. 00
    Ritournelle de la faim by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio (Cecilturtle)
  12. 00
    Det dobbelte land : roman by Birgithe Kosovi´c (2810michael)
    2810michael: På dansk: Cellisten fra Sarajevo
  13. 01
    The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian (Iudita)
    Iudita: Another intense,personal story within the chaos of a war zone.

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» See also 442 mentions

English (200)  German (2)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  All (206)
Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
This is a good book, it just took me a while. It wasn't hugely exciting where you just can't wait to delve back into it. If the book was a movie, it would have been a slower indie drama filled with landscape and background shots.
Still the story was good and you bounce around between 4 different lives of the same situation. I'd recommend it for anyone looking for a calm, lazy weekend read. ( )
  jovemako | May 3, 2017 |
The Cellist of Sarajevo came highly recommended, but I had my reservations. How could a thirty-two year old professor from Canada give any sort of justice to the Bosnian War, and do so in a mere 200 pages? The conflict is much too recent to easily dismiss any inaccuracies in the text. And it's difficult to ignore the obvious differences in growing up in Kamloops versus getting by in Sarajevo. Surely, it cannot be done. The problem was, I was imagining that Galloway's novel would be like nearly every other war novel, when in fact, The Cellist of Sarajevo breaks most of the rules of “war stories” and largely succeeds.

Galloway takes the four year siege and narrows the focus to such a tiny sliver. Although the book blurb conveys that this novel is about “four strangers,” the fourth being the titular cellist, it really centers on three. The cellist is little more than a device to tell the story and unite the others. (The “cellist” is based on a real person, Vedran Smailovic; his inclusion caused significant drama.) These three characters are so unlike any other I have encountered in a war novel that it is shocking. Two of the three are merely men walking the streets with purpose. The third is a female sniper. All three are afraid, but only the sniper is doing something about it. The two men cower behind buildings and struggle with reconciling the past with the present.

Aside from the reversed war-time gender roles, I found it interesting how the characters most crippled by fear were the ones actually moving. It was the active participant, the sniper, who hid in the shadows and rarely moved. Such focus allows the characters to rise above the war that surrounds them and become closer to universal. It is by giving such a narrow scope—a family man in search of water who cannot stand up to his cantankerous neighbor, an elderly baker who seeks invisibility, and a sharp-shooter with a vendetta—that Galloway succeeds in putting the siege of Sarajevo on paper. I wish The Cellist of Sarajevo had made a bigger impact on me, but I think had Galloway tried to craft a more epic tale of war, he would've stepped into territory that would've been too foreign. As it is, The Cellist of Sarajevo gives those of us who didn't experience the war a glimpse of what it may have been like. ( )
  chrisblocker | Dec 16, 2016 |
Simple to read, but an excellent reflection on the distortions to life once modern warfare disrupts civilization.
  ivanfranko | Sep 10, 2016 |
The author here does a wonderful job of evoking what it must certainly feel like living - or existing - in a besieged city; and one whose citizens are literally in snipers' crosshairs at every turn. Three distinct characters are displayed in alternating chapters, each facing dire circumstances, yet all showing different degrees of resolve, forbearance, and human weaknesses. Though based loosely on real events, Galloway completely avoids, by name or implication, any religious, ethnic or political sect. It gives a fable-like anonymity to the story, which I liked, and reminds me of some works by Coetzee and Saramago. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Jun 16, 2016 |
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Gallowy
4/5 stars
The author is careful to explain that this book is fiction, but it is based on a true story. In 1992, during the siege of Sarajevo, 22 people standing in a line to get bread were killed by a mortar shell. For the next 22 days a local cellist played Albinoni's Adagio at the site to honor the dead. The book was a fascinating study of people in extraordinary circumstances. I also enjoyed the back story of the real cellist and the equally interesting story concerning the origin of the adagio.
The Cellist of Sarajevo concerns one particular piece of music; Albinoni's Adagio in G minor. The interesting thing about this piece of music is that it has its own myth and reality. Albinoni was a 17th century Venetian composer. Supposedly this piece was reconstructed from a fragment found in 1945 in the firebombed Dresden music library. (All of this info is at the beginning of the book.) When I searched for more info on the piece so I could listen while I was reading, the plot thickened. Apparently the work is now credited to Remo Giazotto, the musicologist who claimed at first to have simply arranged it. This music has been recorded many times and in many arrangements. Whoever composed it, it’s beautiful.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
Canadian Galloway (Ascension) delivers a tense and haunting novel following four people trying to survive war-torn Sarajevo. .... With wonderfully drawn characters and a stripped-down narrative, Galloway brings to life a distant conflict.
added by SimoneA | editPublishers Weekly (Feb 6, 2008)
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You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you. - Leon Trotsky
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It screamed downward, splitting air and sky without effort.
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 image of things as they were. Then the visible world exploded.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307397041, Paperback)

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:45 -0400)

While a cellist plays at the site of a mortar attack to commemorate the deaths of twenty-two friends and neighbors, two other men set out in search of bread and water to keep themselves alive, and a woman sniper secretly protects the life of the cellist as her army becomes increasingly threatening.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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