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The Cellist of Sarajevoby Steven Galloway
Synopses & Reviews
A spare and haunting, wise and beautiful novel about the endurance of the human spirit and the subtle ways individuals reclaim their humanity in a city ravaged by war.
In a city under siege, four people whose lives have been upended are ultimately reminded of what it is to be human. From his window, a musician sees twenty-two of his friends and neighbors waiting in a breadline. Then, in a flash, they are killed by a mortar attack. In an act of defiance, the man picks up his cello and decides to play at the site of the shelling for twenty-two days, honoring their memory. Elsewhere, a young man leaves home to collect drinking water for his family and, in the face of danger, must weigh the value of generosity against selfish survivalism. A third man, older, sets off in search of bread and distraction and instead runs into a long-ago friend who reminds him of the city he thought he had lost, and the man he once was. As both men are drawn into the orbit of cello music, a fourth character — a young woman, a sniper — holds the fate of the cellist in her hands. As she protects him with her life, her own army prepares to challenge the kind of person she has become.
A novel of great intensity and power, and inspired by a true story, The Cellist of Sarajevo poignantly explores how war can change one's definition of humanity, the effect of music on our emotional endurance, and how a romance with the rituals of daily life can itself be a form of resistance.
"Canadian Galloway (Ascension) delivers a tense and haunting novel following four people trying to survive war-torn Sarajevo. After a mortar attack kills 22 people waiting in line to buy bread, an unnamed cellist vows to play at the point of impact for 22 days. Meanwhile, Arrow, a young woman sniper, picks off soldiers; Kenan makes a dangerous trek to get water for his family; and Dragan, who sent his wife and son out of the city at the start of the war, works at a bakery and trades bread in exchange for shelter. Arrow's assigned to protect the cellist, but when she's eventually ordered to commit a different kind of killing, she must decide who she is and why she kills. Dragan believes he can protect himself through isolation, but that changes when he runs into a friend of his wife's attempting to cross a street targeted by snipers. Kenan is repeatedly challenged by his fear and a cantankerous neighbor. All the while, the cellist continues to play. With wonderfully drawn characters and a stripped-down narrative, Galloway brings to life a distant conflict." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"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
"Through the perilous journeys that Kenan and Dragan undertake across the strife-torn city, Galloway gifts us valuable insights into how compassion can blossom, unexpectedly, during mindless atrocities....[An] accomplished, important work." Chicago Sun-Times
"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." Z. Z. Packer, author of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
"A grand and powerful novel about how people retain or reclaim their humanity when they are under extreme duress." Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi
"A gripping story of Sarajevo under siege." J. M. Coetzee, author of Disgrace and Diary of a Bad Year
"Indelible imagery and heartbreaking characters give authority to this chilling story and make human a crisis typically overlooked in literature." Kirkus Reviews
"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
The acclaimed and inspiring international bestseller that is a tribute to the human spirit.
In a city ravaged by war, a musician plays his cello for twenty-two days at the site of a mortar attack, in memory of the fallen. Among the strangers drawn into the orbit of his music are a young father in search of water for his family, an older man in search of the humanity he once knew, and a young woman, a sniper, who will decide the fate of the cellist?and the kind of person she wants to be.
About the Author
Steven Galloway teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia.
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