Steven Galloway - The Cellist of Sarajevo (3 stars)

Steven Galloway - The Cellist of Sarajevo



‘It is a sad tune. But it doesn’t make me sad,’ someone said of the cellist who played Albinoni’s ‘Adagio’ for 22 days in remembrance of innocents killed while standing in a queue for bread. This is a sad book, but it might not make you sad. The cellist, inspired by a real person, unknowingly becomes a focal point for Arrow, Dragan and Kenan, three unconnected lives fractured by the siege on Sarajevo. War and its unending misery are ably evoked, the more so for the book’s repetition.

Though sometimes capable of capturing something bleakly beautiful, Steven Galloway often trowels the sentiment on too thick, and the beauty and futility of the cellist’s actions are drowned out by the circular musings of the three. Rhetorical questions, painful yearnings and memories of happier times abound, but when each page carries an emotional crescendo, the overall power of the piece is diminished.

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