The Cellist of Sarajevo (DO NOT ORDER - Canadian Edition)

The Cellist of Sarajevo (DO NOT ORDER - Canadian Edition)

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by Steven Galloway
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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 www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca

“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.

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Standing at his window on May 27, 1992, the cellist has no idea what is about to happen. The mortar that falls in front of his apartment building kills 22 of his friends and neighbors as they wait in line for bread, and in a moment, his world is horribly diminished. In mute defiance of the danger of doing so, he carries his instrument to the very place where the mortar exploded and plays. His intention is to play for 22 days -- one day for each person killed -- if he survives that long.

In Galloway's spare and haunting first novel, the cellist is just one of four distinct voices that serve as witnesses of the bloody siege of Sarajevo: a 28-year-old woman no longer identified as a daughter, sister, student, or lover but solely by her greatest and most deadly talent -- finding a target and hitting it; a young man preparing to leave the sanctity of his home to retrieve water for his family, a seemingly ordinary journey that forces him to weigh the cost of humanity against that of his own survival; another man en route to a bakery who happens upon an old friend and begins to reminisce.

Each of these voices is drawn into the orbit of the cellist's musical protest, reclaiming their presence and a small measure of their once beautiful city. (Summer 2008 Selection)
Kevin Baker
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)
J. M. Coetzee
A gripping story of Sarajevo under siege. (J. M. Coetzee, author of Disgrace and Diary of a Bad Year)
Yann Martel
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)
ZZ Packer
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)
Publishers Weekly

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. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

A bread line in besieged Sarajevo. A mortar lobbed by Serb soldiers on the hill. Death for 22 people. A cellist sees it all and determines to honor the dead-and perhaps assuage his own pain-by playing Albinoni's Adagio on the spot for 22 days. And so Galloway opens his first novel, inspired by true events, weaving together four lives to tell the awful story of Sarajevo's devastation. Aside from the cellist, there's Kenan, who risks his life every few days to carry plastic canisters to the brewery and retrieve water for his family. Dragan, who got his family out before the bombs started falling, works at the bakery for, literally, his daily bread. Both must cower on street corners and watch those who risk crossing get shot or killed. Arrow, who uses an alias, is a sniper desperate to defend her city and just as desperate not to compromise her humanity by hating the men who rain death down on the city. In the end, each takes a stand, small or large, to assure that the "Sarajevo that [they want] to live is alive again." Galloway writes simply and affectingly, occasionally resorting to cliché and just as often hitting a sweet, clear note that makes the siege of Sarajevo very real. For most collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ1/08.]
—Barbara Hoffert

Kirkus Reviews
Four people struggle to stay alive in war-torn Sarajevo, remembering the simple pleasures of their old routines as they settle into horrifying, desperate new ones. On a day during the brutal siege of Sarajevo-an occupation that ultimately lasted years and claimed tens of thousands of lives-a mortar attack kills 22 people waiting for bread as a once famous cellist watches from his window. In tribute, he decides to play his cello in the street for 22 days, which will likely get him killed, given the hordes of snipers waiting in the hills above the city. But Arrow, an angry young female sniper, is cryptically assigned to protect him. As she stalks his potential killers, she begins to confront her own rationale for murder. Meanwhile, two ordinary citizens try to survive another day in the hell that Sarajevo has become. Kenan, a young father, traverses the ravaged city in search of water for his family and, as a favor, for a neighbor. The only safe haven for clean drinking water is a brewery across town, and the trek is both difficult and dangerous. On the journey, Kenan passes the tragic remains of his old life, including the office building, now burnt down, where he used to work and the park, now unsafe, where he used to spend time with a friend. Meanwhile, Dragan, a middle-aged baker, runs into an old acquaintance as he goes searching for bread. The two literally dodge bullets as they make their way through the streets. As violence rages in a city whose vibrance now lives only in the memories of its dying residents, the cellist continues his beautiful act of defiance, playing on through the bullets. Indelible imagery and heartbreaking characters give authority to this chilling story andmake human a crisis typically overlooked in literature. Agent: Henry Dunow/Dunow, Carlson & Lerner

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307397041
Publisher:
Knopf Canada
Publication date:
02/06/2009
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.39(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Cellist

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.

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Steven Galloway is the author of Finnie Walsh, Ascension and The Cellist of Sarajevo. He teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia, and lives with his wife and two young daughters in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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The Cellist of Sarajevo (DO NOT ORDER - Canadian Edition) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read many books, and I don't write a review about many, but this book was amazing. it tells the story of people's life during the Siege so well, and cover only little parts but tells you enough so that you can imagine what else it was like. I am bosnian and my family went through this war. My relatives say it catches enough grief that anymore would haunt you for a while.
EleymBeigh More than 1 year ago
The Cellist of Sarajevo tunes a melancholy story of four civilians thrust in a callous war orchestrated by invisible snipers - "the men in the hills." Once a city of concord and delightful memories, Sarajevo is now a corrupted city plagued by death, poverty, and fear. Weaved together are the stories of a Sarajevan sniper, father, baker, and musician. Each make sacrifices and take murderous risks that could cost them their lives for their families and the love of their city. Galloway threads momentous parallels and thought-provoking questions that would give you pause should you put yourself in these characters' positions. He forces you to ask yourself, "Would I do the same thing in this situation? What would I do differently?" Imbued with fulgurate language and word choice, Galloway illustrates the art of stitching yourself together in times of trial, keeping faith in a ramshackle city, and clutching memories to the heart like a worn photograph in remembrance.
regina77004 More than 1 year ago
In the afterword Galloway says " At four o'clock in the afternnon on May 27, 1992, during the Siege of Sarajevo, several mortar shells struck a group of people waiting to buy bread behind the market on Vase Miskina. Twenty-two people were killed and at least seventy were wounded. For the next twenty-two days Vedran Smailovic, a renowned local cellist, played Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor at the site in honor of the dead. His actions inspired this novel." During the Sieg of Sarajevo, which lasted four years, those who remained were left to fight for survival. Fighting meant making it one more day. Routine activities such as access to fresh water became an arduous, day long journey always with the prospect that sniper bullets from the hills would strike you down. The Cellist of Sarajevo follows the lives of four people, who day by day, try to live long enough to rebuild Sarajevo back into the city of their memories. All four lives intersect and are affected by the cellist. For some the cellist's music reminds them of the humanity that once existed both in themselves and in the city, for some it simply resurrects the comfort of memories from times past, and for others it is a reminder that all one can do is all that he/she can do, and that means something. This is a beautiful story that illustrates the importance of commitment to ideals and to community.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Most boring book I have ever read. Was not impressed at all and did not agree with any of the reviews I saw. Terrible summer reading choice and assignment for school. I do not recommend at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written, and powerfully thought-provoking. This story will stick with me forever.
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In its brevity, the Cellist of Sarajevo packs a mighty punch of reflection on what it is to live life, rather than just going through the motions. An interesting concurrent telling of characters' lives during a snapshot in time, set in the context of the Sarajevo Siege of the 1990's. I admit to rushing through the last third of the book in order to finish for book club and already want to re-read it to fully reflect on the story. I would give it 4.5 stars if I could.
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Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
The Cel­list of Sara­jevo by Steven Gal­loway is a work of real­is­tic fic­tion. The novel is a quick but somber read and takes place dur­ing the 1990s siege of Sarajevo. Dur­ing the siege of Sara­jevo a musi­cian sees 22 of his friends and neigh­bors get­ting killed while wait­ing in a bread line. The man decided to play his cello on the site for 22 days. A young man named Degan goes to col­lect drink­ing water for his fam­ily, this sim­ple act is self­less and dan­ger­ous. Another man, Keenan, goes to search for bread, while run­ning into an old friend who reminds him of the city that was lost. They are all being watched, unknow­ingly by Arrow, a female sniper. The Cel­list of Sara­jevo by Steven Gal­loway is a book which is has all the right parts but for me, didn’t come together. The imagery is astound­ing, the char­ac­ters are believ­able and the story telling is both haunt­ing and poetic. After 250 pages (or so) of build up there is … nothing. The ten­sion in the book is felt on every page, as some­one who fol­lowed the events in 1990s I cer­tainly under­stood the story and the con­text for which it was told. How­ever, even if one is not famil­iar with the con­text, the much larger uni­ver­sal themes and val­ues in the book, such as human life, decency and appre­ci­a­tion of the small things in life are represented. As you can tell, I really don’t know what to think of this book – it is by no means bad, but a very ele­gant read. The cel­list in the title appear maybe four times in the whole book, I expected to gain more under­stand­ing into his actions, get to know him, his fam­ily and more. Mainly I was hop­ing to read about how such an grace­ful ges­ture, play­ing clas­si­cal music in a war torn coun­try on a dan­ger­ous street, would affect other lives in Sara­jevowho have no or lit­tle con­nec­tion to the cel­list himself. Which, again, it is not to say that this s not a good book, maybe I was mis­lead by the title, maybe the novel was just too short or maybe I sim­ply didn’t gain enough under­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion at hand. The novel is based on Vedran Smailovic who played his cello in aban­doned build­ings dur­ing the siege of Sarajevo.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing may not have been rhe best, but the story is something truly wonderful. A stronlgy suggested read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is certainly not a "light" read. Galloway's writing is incredible and makes you feel as if you are right there with the characters. This book is one that changes your view on life and makes you grateful for all you have, without being preachy about it. I highly recommend this book!
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IMPetus More than 1 year ago
Galloway handles the depiction of human nature with tact and eery accuracy. The dialogue is engaging and realistic; Galloway captures the essence of speech in sparse but elegant dialogue. The characters' emotional tension is handled well and the action, while a little slow-moving, is purposeful and evocative of one's humanity, as Yann Martel puts it. One limitation, or perhaps strength, is that the artistry of the prose is strongest in the introduction and denouement; somehow the rising action is not quite as indulgent. Nonetheless, beautiful overall.