- Fizzy Thoughts: The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo

Monday, July 27, 2009


The Cellist of Sarajevo
Steven Galloway
231 pages

For such a small little book, this one sure packs a whammy.  It takes place during the early 1990’s, during the Siege of Sarajevo, and shows us the impact the siege has on the lives of four different individuals.

The Cellist:  The Cellist has vowed to play Albinoni’s Adagio every day for 22 days, in remembrance of 22 people killed by a mortar attack while waiting in line for bread.  (Note: this character is based on Vedran Smailovic, who is not at all happy about this book.)
Arrow: a sniper in the army, Arrow is tasked with taking out the sniper who will likely target the Cellist. Used to the unique freedom of picking her own targets, this assignment is difficult for Arrow, who may soon find herself losing this small bit of control she counts on. 
Dragan: an older man who was able to send his wife and son to safety before the city was locked down, Dragan struggles with his journey to work every day.  As he walks the streets and crosses the bridges, he is always aware that he may be shot down by the snipers in the hills.  The constant vigilance is beginning to affect him, however.  Dragan is almost to the point of being incapacitated by the sound of gunfire.

Kenan:  Every four days Kenan must traverse the city to fill up water bottles for his family.  Like Dragan, he is hyper-vigilant about snipers.  But for Kenan the focus is on the two additional, inconvenient water bottles that he carries to fill for his ungrateful elderly neighbor.  Kenan is constantly wondering if lugging those two extra bottles around is worth it.

The Cellist begins the story, and while everyone is aware of him, he is usually in the background.  The book really focuses on Arrow, Dragan and Kenan.  The stories take place over the course of a month, and alternate between the three characters.  By the end of the novel, each has come to an important resolution.  Despite the huge toll the siege has had on their lives, they each manage to wrestle back control...although not control in the sense of being in charge, more like they are determined not to let the siege turn them into people they are not.  They all manage to transcend the war and emerge victorious in their own way.

9 comment(s):

Amanda said...

I really enjoyed this book when I read it last fall, but over time, it sort of slipped away from my memory and didn't leave as big an impact as I thought it had. Then, finding out about the whole contraversy slightly soured my feelings about the whole thing. Now I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Lit and Life said...

I've got this book out from the library and have been looking forward to it for a long time. Yours is the first review I've seen on it--good to have confirmation that I won't be wasting my time!

bermudaonion said...

I'm looking forward to reading this one. We lived in France during the Seige of Sarajevo and Vance took rice to school to send children there. I also remember seeing trains carrying supplies to the people there.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds really good. I've seen it around but didn't know the plot. Thanks for the illuminating review!

booklineandsinker said...

i saw this book reviewed a few different places and read the articles about the actual cellist who took great issue with this book. it's still on my tbr list and i hope to get to it sooner rather than later. :)

Bookfool said...

I didn't realize the actual cellist was unhappy about the book. I just got a copy of this one from PBS, about two weeks ago. I keep looking at it longingly, but I've got about 2 more months till I'm done with ARC obligations. Then I'll be free, FREE! Sorry, I get a little over-excited.

Diane said...

I did enjoy reading this one last year.

Veens said...

this book sounds good!
Well let me look for it :)

Anna said...

I've had my eye on this one for a awhile. Sounds like a powerful book.

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