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The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway




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The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Published by Atlantic Books in 2008

This novel 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.

This book movingly depicts the horrors of war and the difficulties it imposes on people trying to get on with the ordinary things in their lives like getting water for their families. But above all it is a story about the power of the human spirit to endure even the most unimaginable horrors.
‘Galloway's style is sparse, pared down; his prose has the deceptive simplicity of a short story. The work of an expert, The Cellist of Sarajevo is a controlled and subtle piece of craftsmanship.’ Zoe S. Green, The Observer
‘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

Steven Galloway was born in Vancouver where he still lives.

Galloway claims that his novel was inspired by the action of a renowned local cellist, Vedran Smailovic, who for twenty-two days played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor at the site in Sarajevo where twenty-two people were killed in a mortar attack. However, Smailovic, who currently lives in Northern Ireland, is said to be unhappy with the novel.