The Cellist of Sarajevo

By Steven Galloway
(Riverhead Trade, Paperback, 9781594483653, 256pp.)

Publication Date: March 31, 2009

Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover, Compact Disc

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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Spring/Summer '09 Reading Group List
“Inspired by the Sarajevo musician who, risking sniper fire, played his cello for 22 afternoons in honor of the 22 killed while standing in a breadline, this slim but powerful novel explores aspects of war not often addressed. Scenes of sorrow and danger, sacrifice and compromise make this a novel I will never forget.”
-- Leslie Reiner, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL
Selected by Indie Booksellers for the July 2008 Indie Notables
“Twenty-two people are killed in a mortar attack during the siege of Sarajevo. In response, a cellist decides to play at the site of the attack for 22 days. The Cellist of Sarajevo celebrates small acts of courage by ordinary people as they struggle to survive under dangerous circumstances.”
-- Sally Wizik Wills, Sister Wolf Books, Park Rapids, MN
Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Winter 2011 Reading Group List
“Focusing on three concisely developed, unrelated characters and an unnamed cellist who has vowed to play for 22 days in memory of 22 people who have died in a mortar attack on war-torn Sarajevo, Galloway creates individual portraits that combine in a stunning picture of what it takes to survive in a city under siege. Spare narration and haunting voice make this a must-read.”
-- Peter Marsh, Briggs Carriage Bookstore, Brandon, VT


Description

A spare and haunting, wise and beautiful novel about war and the endurance of the human spirit and the subtle ways individuals reclaim their humanity.

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.
 




About the Author

Steven Galloway lives in British Columbia and teaches creative writing at the University of British Coumbia.




Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What effect does the constant confrontation of war and occupation have on each narrator? Does suffering, violence and loss ever become normalized for them? What is it like to live in this kind of anarchy—especially when symbols of peace and power have been extinguished (the eternal flame from WWII, the Kosovo Olympic stadium now used as a burial ground)? And what does it mean to have the color, beauty, and vibrancy of music and flowers (left behind for the cellist) introduced?




Praise For The Cellist of Sarajevo

“An exquisite novel of war and loss...The book feels vividly created...an elegant and ever fragile work of art.”
O, The Oprah Magazine

“Compelling.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Elegant.”
Los Angeles Times

“Indelible imagery and heartbreaking characters.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Tense and haunting.”
Publishers Weekly

“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



“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, 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



“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

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