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The Cellist of Sarajevo

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  18,475 ratings  ·  2,542 reviews
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
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ebook, 256 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Riverhead Books (first published 2008)
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TK421
Few books have ever moved me to tears. Sure, I get sad every once in a while when reading a story, but hardly ever do I feel like crying after a novel. THE CELLIST OF SARAJEVO made me cry. Not face trembling, snot pouring from the nose type of crying, rather, the tears that came from completion of this novel were from a deep sadness I rarely experience. But before getting to my crying episode, let me first share a few things that I found amazing with this book:

1) It was written by Steve Galloway
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Mary
Recently, I’ve been bemused by some ongoing commotion in my workplace over a draft blowing through some glass doors. Perhaps it’s because I just finished The Cellist of Sarajevo last night, but the office hubbub no longer amuses me and I think this is partly why books such as this one are fundamental. There are entirely far too many comfortable, middle-class people in their warm, dry cubicles complaining about things that don’t matter. These people will never know true hardship; their cities wil ...more
Susan Rich
I was skeptical of a book written about Sarajevo by someone who neither lived through the seige nor who is a Bosnian, but I was wrong. The book is a lyrical song to a city l love very much. Clearly, the author has done enormous research and spent time in the city with Sarajevans. All that aside, what I love about this book is the deep empathy with the characters and with the city. Something about living in these unspeakable conditions is understood by the writer and rendered here with beauty and ...more
A.J.
The Cellist of Sarajevo has received good reviews and on the surface has a lot going for it. It's well written, convincing in its detail and doesn't waste words. Three characters struggle to get by in besieged Sarajevo. Kenan walks off to get water for his family and neighbours; Dragan to get bread. The third, Arrow, is a female sniper charged with protecting the cellist, who for twenty-two days will play in the Markale marketplace to commemorate the victims of a mortar attack.

The triple, parall
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Buggy
Opening line: “It screamed downward, splitting air and sky without effort.”

A few years ago while I was travelling in Europe I met a guy from Sarajevo and we became friends. At one point he asked me if I knew anything about what had happened in his country. I replied that I knew very little, only what I'd seen on the news. Sasha laughed and never said another word on the subject, which at the time I found strange. Now I know why, what could he possibly say that I'd understand?

This is a beautiful
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Annalisa
Aug 16, 2010 Annalisa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Annalisa by: Jeana
My favorite part of this book was the discussion of Sarajevo's role in starting the first World War with an assassination. "When the world thought of Sarajevo, it was as a place of murder. It isn't clear to him how the world will think of the city now that thousands have been murdered. He suspects that what the world wants most is not to think of it all."

I was in high school when the siege on Sarajevo began. And honestly, I didn't know, or at least had forgotten, about Sarajevo's role in WWI, be
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Bonnie
Feb. 28 update:

Since my trip to Whistler, where I had the chance to talk with, and listen to Steven, I have learned that the original cellist and Steven are now on good tems. Apparently, there had been misunderstandings (language barrier could easily play a role!), but now, all is well. :)

Below, the review, as previously written:

Henceforward, when watching daily news clips from war-torn countries, I will think of the three main characters in this story, and what it must be like to live this real
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Shannon
A stark look at three lives affected by the siege on Sarajevo in the 1990's. I liked how Galloway avoided identifiers like “Muslim,” “Serb,” “Croat” and “Bosnian,” or any ethnic or religious labels in The Cellist of Sarajevo. The main characters are simply referred to as Sarajevans, their common enemy described only as “the men on the hills.”

There is a good mix of inner and outer demons. I think Galloway did a good job of showing what war does to ordinary citizens. And I liked how Galloway show
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Margaret
A truly AMAZING, 5 out of 5 stars, book that, simply put, everyone should read. It follows three stories - four, if you include the cellist's - of trying to survive and retain one's humanity (literally, as in being alive and human at the same time) while living in Sarajevo during the 1992-96 siege. The two men's stories (Keenan and Dragan) are particularly poignant and thought provoking: One man, a husband and a father, who is getting water for his family - a death defying act - and the other ma ...more
Cher
3.5 stars - It was really good.

I typically really enjoy fiction based on true events and this one was no exception. When I was a young and ignorant teenager I worked with a few Bosnian immigrants that had fled their country due to all of the fighting, but I didn't really get it then and American news certainly was not covering it as much as they were the celebrity flavor of the month. I definitely was not aware that at the time, the Siege of Sarajevo was the longest city siege in the history of
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Connie
In 1992, twenty-two people were killed by mortar shells as they stood in a bread line in a town square during the Siege of Sarajevo. In honor of the deceased, a local cellist who had witnessed the attack played Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor at the site daily for twenty-two days. It is a bit of beauty at a scene of devastation. This fictional book is inspired by this true event in Sarajevo.

The book also tells the stories of three other characters trying to survive the devastation. Sarajevo is surr
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Elizabeth (Alaska)
This book is raw and powerful. Written in the present tense, you are with the characters on the streets of Sarajevo during the siege of 1992-1995. It isn't fun being there, but it is compelling. The cellist plays for 22 days in the crater from a shell that killed 22 people standing in line for bread. Why?

The author has taken a dark event in human history and crafted a story whose theme transcends that event and is relevant to each life in every situation: Each life is important, that self respec
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Ruthie
I remember hearing about this book and sorta deciding I just didn't want to read another book about another war, especially one that didn't really effect me. Then I was on vacation in Punta Cana and had nothing left to read so I decided to check out the book-exchange in the condo complex. It was this or a Harlequin Romance so I grabbed it. This book is Brilliant. Period.

It is about the siege of Sarajevo, but really it is about humanity. It is about choosing to survive. It is about surrendering
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Shaykup
This book brought some memories to me. Not of war because I've never lived in these circumstances, but more of memories of my dad. My dad isn't dead or anything just felt he was similar to Kenan. I've seen my dad broken like Kenan was, due to not having money. He’d do whatever it took to feed us like Kenan did.

This book takes place in a city named Sarajevo during the Siege of Sarajevo. The opening scene is of a bomb shelling a group of 22 people. It really paints a strong picture on how quick de
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Natalie
Books about music, about people hearing music, about music stopping time I have a love/hate relationship with reading them, I want to listen to them, hear the music myself -RIGHT NOW. I am too impatient or too lazy or both to read well about music. I should have remembered this about myself before opening this book.

Those of us who who haven't had our listening interrupted by shelling thankfully can't truly imagine the sound of music played in those circumstances. Books about the sounds of war -
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Iain Snelling
Well, this book divided the Hallam Cricket Club book club. I liked it very much, but the general feeling wasn't at all positive. I thought it convincingly explored the daily horrors of living in the siege, and the sense of bewilderment that that haracters felt. The three characters whose perspectives are given in detail are all plausible, and surviving as best they can - there is real suspense in places, particularly in the struggle to cross the road with the snipers firing down on them. I think ...more
*Christie*
Dec 02, 2008 *Christie* rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to *Christie* by: Robert
Everyone: read this book. I feel so blessed and sick at the same time. Blessed for where I live. Sick for the ignorance that's been mine. How many people are suffering every day while I go about my life? As a parent I was struck by the idea of having to sacrifice your life just so that your child could have water. It's humbling. This is one of the best books that I have read. My next step is to learn more about the conflict in Sarajevo.

SPOILER HERE ----> How amazing is the humanity in each pe
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Sharon
I'm three-quarters of the way through this powerful novel that follows the lives of four individuals trapped in the daily horrifying grip of war in Sarajevo. What's luminous and gripping about it is how it is the first time I've read something about a war that literally makes me feel the tension/persistence/wrestling with how to be a civilized human in the middle of chaos. Heartbreaking. Makes me think of e.e.cummings line "pity this busy monster, manunkind..." Well worth the (quick) read. The p ...more
Alena
My son has to read this for freshman English, so I decided to read along with him.

I can see why his teacher chose this. Themes, symbols, motifs all rise to the surface fairly obviously-- which I assume will make for good discussion and critical reading. It was a bit obvious for my reading taste, but I've read almost nothing from the Bosnian War setting, so I found the context compelling.
Beth
I had been reading complex books—sung and literary books—and then began to read CELLIST, which was alarmingly simple at first in terms of words on a page, almost, in places, words plunked down, and then the storm of the story itself surged, and the horror of a place in which one cannot even safely cross a street set in, and I found this book to be very, very fine, and thoroughly unforgettable.
Salymar
The Cellist of Sarajevo is a fictionalized war-novel of the Gulf War (and in between, the Bosnian War). However, the author emphasizes the event happened particularly in Sarajevo, The Siege of Sarajevo. It was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare [Connelly, Charlie (2006)]. After being initially besieged by the forces of the Yugoslav People's Army, Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was then besieged by the Army of Republika Srpska from 5 April 1992 ...more
Laurence Thompson
At one point in this novel a cameraman sets up on a busy intersection, hoping to capture footage of locals running under sniper-fire. One of the novel's characters bemoans this. To him Sarajevo is so much more than this moment. It's a city of individuals with complex lives that crave meaning. Behind that footage, each person running has a story that deserves to be told.

But to me, Steven Galloway is that cameraman. The stories of his three main characters develop with strong matter of factness;
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Kerry
This is a gorgeous, haunting book set in war torn Sarajevo in the mid 1990s, as the title implies. It's about so many things - the will to survive, making choices, and determining who you are underneath the trappings of civility, especially as they are stripped away with violence. Its about finding pleasure in small luxuries such as having electricity or seeing your children smile. Its about deciding what is moral. One line I think sums my feelings about this book rather nicely - its from later ...more
Elyse
I've read this a couple of times ---

I never posted it on Goodreads? Shame on me! I thought everyone has read it! Its such a sad/sweet story. This small story can read it in a couple of hours --- Fresh air will pump through your body from the experience.

When I saw that my GR's friend --(also friend & neighbor)-- is reading it now ---my heart warmed!
Pat
Feb 27, 2015 Pat rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2015
A short but powerful novel. Imagine if you lived in a cosmopolitan city with a national museum, national art gallery, national library, restaurants, cafes. Somewhere you can sit at a bistro and enjoy coffee and friends and the world is wonderful. Actually so wonderful that your city is chosen to host the Olympics. And then, suddenly, it is all destroyed and war breaks out and you find yourself in the middle of this just trying to survive.

This is the story of The Cellist of Sarajevo. The story is
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Julie
A beautifully rendered, harrowing account of one month during the four-year long siege of Sarajevo (1992-96). It is remarkable that in such a slim work the characters could be so completely drawn and with such dignity. I noted in the author's acknowledgments those he thanked for helping him think like a Sarajevan and was touched that he allowed real voices to inform his work and speak through his characters. These voices of the four characters, whose survival in a destroyed city is linked by the ...more
Kim
I've been to Sarajevo. Recently, not during the war, but it's a place where the war is still very tangible. You literally cannot walk down the street without being reminded of it. Like Sarajevo itself, this book is beautiful and heartbreaking. The story accurately captures the sense of place and time, and reflects very closely the experiences I heard from people when I was there. The book also does a good job of capturing Sarajevans' distinctive black humor, which is still very evident there.

But
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Michele
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Imi
The opening chapter of this novel was incredibly written, gut-wrenching and sadly I think the rest of the novel failed to live up to that standard. What I felt this really needed was a little bit of context. There was one scene in the novel where a Western TV cameraman is quickly setting up equipment to get a shot of the locals running away from sniper fire. One of the characters, Dragan, is overcome with a desire to remove a dead body from view of the cameraman, risking his life to prevent the ...more
Crystal
This was a beautifully written novel about a terrible time in the world. For a sparely written novel, there was a lot of detail--I understood why there was so much geographical detail within nad around the the city, as it set the stage and was relevant. But I'm always bemused as to why authors have to describe things like how a character removed the lids from his water bottles. It seemed like needless clutter in an otherwise elegant book. I can't say I loved the characters: Arrow was my favorite ...more
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Galloway was born in Vancouver, and raised in Kamloops, British Columbia. He attended the University College of the Cariboo and the University of British Columbia. His debut novel, Finnie Walsh, was nominated for the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award. His second novel, Ascension, was nominated for the BC Book Prizes' Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and has been translated into numerous langu ...more
More about Steven Galloway...
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“A weapon does not decide whether or not to kill. A weapon is a manifestation of a decision that has already been made.” 56 likes
“She felt an enveloping happiness to be alive, a joy made stronger by the certainty that someday it would all come to an end. Afterward she felt a little foolish, and never spoke to anyone about it.
Now, however, she knows she wasn't being foolish. She realizes that for no particular reason she stumbled into the core of what it is to be human. It's a rare gift to under stand that you life is wondrous, and that it won't last forever. ”
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