Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review -- The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of SarajevoThe Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars







A cellist; an act of defiance and of hope; three lives devastated by war and their ability to survive at all costs.

On May 27, 1992 a mortar shell struck a market during the Siege of Sarajevo, killing 22 people, injuring many others, who were simply waiting in line for a loaf of bread.

As a sign of humanity and resistance, Vedran Smailović, a renowned Sarajevan cellist, played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor for 22 days in the same bombed-out market square, to honor each of his fellow citizens.



In author Steven Galloway’s fictional account of the cellist and the siege, humanity is brought to the basic level of survival. Told through the eyes of 3 citizens – Arrow, a sniper; Dragan, a baker and Kenan, a father – the daily necessities of food, water and endurance are told in a bleak but astounding narrative.

Simply walking in the streets of Sarajevo was life threatening. Snipers sat in the hillsides taking aim at their targets as if they were ducks in a carnival attraction. What separated those who made it across bridges or streets to the safety of a nearby building was nothing more than luck or chance.

This novel was brilliant and poetic. The pallor of war settled on me while I was reading this book. I had to look at the window on occasion to make sure mortar shells weren’t dropping in my driveway.

I only wish there had been a map of the city – the topography of Sarajevo – mountains, hills, valley, rivers – was as much a character of this novel as were the actual humans – that it would have been nice to have something in the front of the book to refer to while reading. But that is a minor complaint.

I read this in one afternoon.  It was haunting.  Enough said.

For more from the author check out this related video:



Book source: Public library

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