The Cellist of Sarajevo (英語) ペーパーバック – 2009/3/31
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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.
aI 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 soulaaltogether Galloway gives us fine, deep notes of human music which will remain long after the final page.a
-ZZ Packer, author of "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere"
aA grand and powerful novel about how people retain or reclaim their humanity when they are under extreme duress.a
-Yann Martel, author of "Life of Pi"
aSteven Gallowayas "The Cellist of Sarajevo" is a wonderful story, a tribute to the human spirit in the face of insanity.a
-Kevin Baker, author of "Dreamland" and "Paradise Alley"
aA gripping story of Sarajevo under siege.a
-J. M. Coetzee, author of "Disgrace" and "Diary of a Bad Year"
aThis gripping novel transcends time and place...a universal story.a
aKhaled Hosseini, author of "The Kite Runner"
aAn exquisite novel of war and loss...The book feels vividly created...an elegant and ever fragile work of art.a
a"O, The Oprah Magazine"
aGrand and powerful.a
aYann Martel, author of "Life of Pi"
aA gripping story.a
aJ.M. Coetzee, Nobel prize-winning author of "Disgrace"
a"Los Angeles Times"
aIndelible imagery and heartbreaking characters.a
a"Kirkus Reviews" (starred review)
aTense and haunting.a
?This gripping novel transcends time and place...a universal story.?
?Khaled Hosseini, author of "The Kite Runner"
?An exquisite novel of war and loss...The book feels vividly created...an elegant and ever fragile work of art.?
?"O, The Oprah Magazine"
?Grand and powerful.?
?Yann Martel, author of "Life of Pi"
?A gripping story.?
?J.M. Coetzee, Nobel prize-winning author of "Disgrace"
?"Los Angeles Times"
?Indelible imagery and heartbreaking characters.?
?"Kirkus Reviews" (starred review)
?Tense and haunting.?
"An exquisite novel of war and loss...The book feels vividly created...an elegant and ever fragile work of art."
--"O, The Oprah Magazine"
--"Los Angeles Times"
"Indelible imagery and heartbreaking characters."
--"Kirkus Reviews" (starred review)
"Tense and haunting."
"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"
"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"
"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
"A gripping story of Sarajevo under siege." --J. M. Coetzee, author of "Disgrace " and "Diary of a Bad Year"
"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"
Amazon.com で最も参考になったカスタマーレビュー (beta)
Other reviews, including the excellent one from the Washington Post (click on "See all editorial reviews"), have rightly focused on the characters around which the novel is centered. But also compelling is the plight of the city itself. Although Sarajevo became familiar to me during the Olympic games, one does not need to have seen the pre-war city to shudder at what happened to it. As one of the characters takes circuitous routes to get to his work and food, he recalls its past as he's faced with its present: "Every day," he muses, "the Sarajevo he thinks he remembers slips away from him a little at a time, like water cupped in the palms of his hands, and when it's gone, he wonders what will be left. He isn't sure what it will be like to live without remembering how life used to be, what it was like to live in a beautiful city." Or, I thought, what it would be like to try to cope with the destruction of wherever one lives, whatever the cause. In more ways than one, the author of "The Kite Runner" was absolutely correct when he called "The Cellist of Sarajevo" a "universal story."
NOTE: When I went online to find out more about Vedran Smailovic, the man who did indeed play for 22 days at the site where 22 people had been killed in Sarajevo, I discovered a fascinating article in the London Times which details at length the cellist's extreme displeasure at finding his photograph on the original dust jacket of this book and his privacy thus invaded. The article, which also includes author Steven Galloway's reaction to Smailovic's dismay at being used as a character in a work of fiction, is most easily accessed by going to the external links under the entry for Smailovic in Wikipedia.
NOTE: For those who, after reading this novel, are interested in learning more about life during the siege of Sarajevo, see my note about Scott Simon's Pretty Birds: A Novel in comment #6. Additionally, Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo Revised Edition provides a 13-year-old girl's poignant non-fiction account. For those wondering about other books the author of "The Cellist..." has written, yet another memorable read awaits in his Ascension: A Novel.
As the novels opens, the siege of Sarajevo is underway, and 22 innocent civilians have just died from a shelling attack while they were waiting in line to buy bread. The eponymous cellist watched it all from his window. They were his friends and neighbors. For reasons never explained (and without need of explanation) the unnamed cellist decides he will play an adagio on the spot of the attack for the next 22 days.
This small gesture of beauty in the midst of senseless violence and horror makes the man a target. The attackers of the city, described only as "the men on the hill" will want to make a lesson of him--though exactly what that lesson is I'm not sure. The military men defending the city want the cellist protected. They assign that job to the second of four central characters the novel revolves around. She is a sniper, going only by the name Arrow. She was once a happy student at the University, but now she is a weapon in human form. Every day she struggles with her personal moral compass.
The third character is Kenan, a mild-mannered husband and father. The gauntlet he runs every few days is the long trek across town to collect fresh water for his family. No one is Sarajevo is safe. Every time they step outside, they are facing death (although staying inside is no safer with buildings being bombed daily). Kenan's terror at leaving home is echoed by the fourth character, Dagnan, a baker on the way to work who is literally paralyzed by the prospect of crossing the street. If he crosses the street, will he be shot? If he doesn't cross the street, how will he eat?
The characters in this novel are living in a world gone mad. And it wasn't decades ago. It wasn't a third world country. It was barely a 12 years ago in a major European city. I was a young adult at the time, largely ignoring the news. Reading this (mercifully) short, profoundly moving story sent me to the history books trying to understand what this conflict was about. I still don't understand. But this novel gave me a new comprehension of what war really means. Galloway brought war into a world very familiar to me. It kept me awake at night. This is a novel that should be read by all thinking people.
Why 3 stars only? The story framework is laid out ingeniously, the characters well picked and presented, beautiful images, the telling goes well and tension builds up to a point... and then... then there's not much more unfolding. I got the same images and thoughts, repeated in elegiac tone and not bringing additional value to the story.
If you don't know much about the events in the 1990s in Bosnia then you can probably enjoy the story for its universal values. But if you've followed the events it's hard to get transposed into a poetic state of mind and keep it till the end of the story. I had a co-worker, in 1993-1995, who had recently fled Sarajevo with one daughter to Canada. The rest of their family had been killed. It was incredible to see the tension building in this educated, intelligent, and warm person in an unexpected contact with another co-worker, who happened to be from the "other side". I expected (I wished) the book to achieve a more forceful message.
As a coincidence, Radovan Karadzic, Bosnian Serb army leader and war criminal, was caught a few days ago,
It is the kind of page turner that will make short work of a weekend - and bring both a smile and a tear if there is any human in you...