The Cellist of Sarajevo Background

The Cellist of Sarajevo Background

The Cellist of Sarajevo is a fictional novel written in 2008 by Canadian author Stephen Galloway. It is a very moving novel that takes place against a background of war in Sarajevo during the years of the Balkan war. The lives of the four main characters intertwine showing how humans ultimately all have an effect on each other, whether they realize it or not. A musician who sees his friends killed when he looks out of his window picks up his cello and plays at the site where they were killed, for twenty-two days, one day for each friend who was killed. Two other men also set out that day, the first, an older man searching for food, the second, a younger man putting his own life in danger to find drinking water for his family. They are captivated by the music and drawn to the place where the musician is playing.

The safety of all three men is threatened by the novel's fourth character, a sniper, who is intent on protecting the cellist but scrutinized by her own army for doing so, endangering her own life as a result. The novel shows how individual acts of human bravery and sacrifice can make a real difference in the outcome of situations that seem initially to be totally out of the hands of the individual. It is also a novel that appreciates the value of music.

The novel is not an historical report of the Siege of Sarajevo but the book was inspired by an actual event; when a group of people waiting to buy bread were killed by a mortar shell, renowned cellist Vedran Smailovic played the haunting Adagio in G Minor by Albinoni at the bomb site, in honor of the dead. His actions inspired the novel although the character is not featured at all within it. The Siege of Sarajevo took place from April 5, 1992 until February 29, 1996, and remains the longest city siege in the history of modern warfare. Ten thousand people were killed and fifty-six thousand wounded. The novel has been hailed as one of the most sensitive portrayals of the effects of modern war and spent over five months on the New York Times Bestseller List.

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