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.
"'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 * 'A grand and powerful novel about how people retain or reclaim their humanity when they are under extreme duress...While reading The Cellist of Sarajevo you are imaginatively there, in Sarajevo, as the mortar shells are falling and snipers are seeking to kill you as you cross a street. Your mind's eye sees, your moral sense is outraged: your full humanity is being exercised.' Yann Martel * 'Galloway's style is sparse, pared down; his prose has the deceptive simplicity of a short story. The work of an expert, The Cellist of Sarajevo is a controlled and subtle piece of craftsmanship.' - Observer * 'Startlingly good... With prose as unsentimental and deadly as gunfire, Galloway superbly captures the tense existence of a city under siege where daily tasks become a gamble between life and death, yet where a single note of music can exert a power equal to any bomb or bullet.' - Metro"