The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. Published 2008.
This book made me want to cry, but i was so shocked by what i was reading that i held my breath instead…
Steven Galloway write in the Afterwords; “…on May 27 1992, during the siege of Sarajevo, several mortar shells struck a group of people waiting to buy bread behind the market on Vase Miskina. Twenty-two people were killed and at least seventy were wounded. For the next twenty-two days Vedran Samailoic, a renowned cellist, played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor at the site to honour the dead.”
Although the cellist in the story is not based on the famous cellist, and the story is only lightly based on the siege of Sarajevo these things did indeed happen and twenty-two people really were killed by mortar shells.
The story introduces us to three people who are displaced by the siege. Arrow and young woman whose whole family is killed, leaving her alone to fend for herself the best she can and in doing so she becomes one of the best snipers for hire. Kenan, a man with a young wife and family who every four days collects together water containers to walk several kilometers to the city’s only water supply, which had not been destroyed as it comes fresh out of the ground. To do so he has to avoid the hidden snipers and the every present and unrelenting mortar shells. Lastly, Dragan, who escaped conscription because he is needed in his work as a baker. Every day Dragan makes the treacherous journey across the city to the bakery and then at the end of the day, back home again.
Then there is the cellist, who at 4pm every day he walks out of his front door, takes his stool and his cello and sits and plays. On his final day, people risk their lives and gather to hear him play. At the end he lays his bow on top of the flowers that had been left by the people of the city.
Beautifully written and deeply moving. I am surprised and shocked that it has taken me so long to read such an amazing book and how i managed to miss it in the first place.
And if you have a few minutes you might like to listen to the music that was played…