Cellist of Sarajevo, The

Steven Galloway
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.  


Reviewed: 2019-04-06

Borders Original Voices Award for Fiction (2008), Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominee (2008), Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize Nominee (2009), Sakura Medal Nominee for High School Book (2010), OLA Evergreen Award (2009)

NOTE: This is NOT Vedran Smailovic, though it was clearly inspired by him/his moniker and his actions -- and Steven Galloway maybe should have asked before using that title. Written for awards? Probably.

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