Steven Galloway

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Steven Galloway
Born (1975-07-13) July 13, 1975 (age 41)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Occupation Writer
Nationality Canadian
Notable works The Cellist of Sarajevo

Steven Galloway (born July 13, 1975) is a Canadian novelist. He is the writer of the award-winning novel The Cellist of Sarajevo.

Galloway was born in Vancouver, and raised in Kamloops, British Columbia. He attended the University College of the Cariboo and the University of British Columbia(UBC). He lives with his two young daughters in New Westminster.[1]

Galloway was a tenured associate professor and chair of UBC's creative writing program. UBC announced he was suspended with pay from the chair in November 2015. The Faculty Association of UBC criticized the institution for announcing the suspension, stating it was an invasion of privacy. In June 2016, Galloway was fired from the university after an investigation by a former B.C. Supreme Court justice, due to "a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of trust." The nature of the misconduct was not made public.[2]

Finnie Walsh[edit]

Galloway's debut novel, Finnie Walsh (2000), was nominated for the in Canada First Novel Award. It was described as “a work about the love of hockey and the way two boys form a bond that carries them through life's tragedies and trials."[3] Galloway was recognized for successfully portraying a child’s perspective without “giving a child an adult's perspective."[4] The ethnic and economic diversity of the characters had critics describing it as a “truly Canadian book both in content and sensibility.[4] It was noted that “The style of Galloway's early literary influences, Farley Mowat and John Irving, is apparent"[3] in this first novel.


His second novel, Ascension (2003), was nominated for the BC Book Prizes' Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and has been translated into over fifteen languages. Notably different from his first novel, Ascension takes a look at the events in the life of a 66-year-old Romanian man leading up to his famous tight rope walking between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. "He expertly walks a very fine line, spinning the makings of what might have been a gimmicky immigrant tale into a gripping story of one man’s lifelong balancing act."[5]

The Cellist of Sarajevo[edit]

Galloway's third novel, The Cellist of Sarajevo (2008), was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, longlisted for the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize[6] and won the 2009 Evergreen Award, the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature[7] and the Borders Original Voices Award.[8] It was heralded as "the work of an expert" by The Guardian,[9] and has become an international bestseller with rights sold in over 30 countries.

The novel is set during the siege of Sarajevo in the mid-1990s and explores the dilemmas of ordinary people caught in the crisis. The title references the true story of Vedran Smailović, a cellist who played Albinoni's Adagio "dressed in evening tails and perching on a fire-scorched chair" every day for 22 days, "always at the same location", to "honour the 22 people killed by a mortar bomb while they queued for bread at 10 in the morning on May 26, 1992".[10] The novel follows the lives of three fictional citizens of Sarajevo as they struggle to survive the war, including one who seeks to protect the cellist: "He has said he will do this for twenty-two days. This is the eighth. People see him. The world has seen him. We cannot allow him to be killed." The novel examines the gentleness found in humanity and the lasting and healing power of art.

Vedran Smailović did not learn of the book until it was already published. Galloway had been advised to contact Smajlović, who had purposefully embraced a quiet, private life in Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland, but did not do so.[10] When Smailović learned of the publication he described it as an "...explosion of an atomic bomb, emotions of anger and pain ... They steal my name and identity. Nobody can take the rights to that from me. It's quite clear that it is me in the book ... I expect damages for what they have done, an apology and compensation... They are using my picture and advertising their product with my name... I never blessed this project... I am not hiding here, but for 10 years I have not wanted to go out. I don't want to be involved any more as a peacemaker or a public person." Still afflicted by memories of the siege of Sarajevo, Smailovic is outraged by the deliberate misrepresentations of his protest that have come to be because of the book. "I didn't play for 22 days, I played all my life in Sarajevo and for the two years of the siege each and every day."[10] "They keep saying I played at four in the afternoon, but the explosion was at 10 in the morning and I am not stupid, I wasn't looking to get shot by snipers so I varied my routine. "[10] However, a meeting between the two took place in 2012, moving a step closer to conflict resolution.[11]

Galloway, who has been described as "honest and talented young man with no intentions to steal",[11] claimed that Smailović's act of playing the cello as protest in the lens of the global media was an "extremely public act",[10] that fiction writers could not start "paying their sources of inspiration", and that he was under no legal obligation to do so. Galloway did send Smailović a copy of the signed book after the fact when he publicly denounced the book. Galloway stated, "If I had, I suppose, sat down with him and taken up his time ... but I don't see how fiction writers can start paying their sources of inspiration. I would become a pariah of the literary world if I were to do that. I don't even know if I owe him anything on a fiscal level. What about the 25 people I interviewed whose stories are in the book? Should I pay them too? How do you work this out?" [10] Galloway argued that his cellist, while inspired by the famous photos and story of Smailović, was an imaginary, fictional cellist created from his ability to "embrace of the power of the imagination to place oneself in another's experience, to explore a variety of subject matter, themes and cultural background and that fictional accounts of public events aren’t at all uncommon.[12]

The Confabulist[edit]

The Confabulist is a story told some time after 2010 by an elderly man named Martin Strauss who claims to have killed Harry Houdini. Mostly employing flashbacks, the novel alternates between Houdini's point of view and Strauss's point of view to describe the years leading up to their 1926 encounter in Montreal. Several aspects are historically accurate including attempts to have Houdini join espionage circles, and his efforts to champion skepticism over spiritualism. However, it gradually becomes clear that Strauss is an unreliable narrator. The Confabulist was shortlisted for The Rogers Trust Fiction Prize and received favourable reviews from Marcia Kaye of The Toronto Star and Keith Donohue of The Washington Post.[13][14] Conversely, Jenny Hendrix of the New York Times criticized the narrative as heavy handed.[15]


  1. ^ "Writers' Rooms: Steven Galloway". The Vancouver Writers Fest. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Author Steven Galloway no longer employed at UBC following 'record of misconduct'". CBC. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Davis, Charlene. “Galloway, Steven.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Foundation, 1 Sep 2007.
  4. ^ a b Fraser, Lynn. “Finnie Walsh.” CM: an Electronic Reviewing Journal of Canadian Materials for Young People. Winnipeg: Mar 31, 2006. Vol. 12, Iss. 15; 1 pgs
  5. ^ "Ascension Reviewed on Quill and Quire". Quill and Quire. Retrieved 2016-05-21. 
  6. ^ "The 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize Announces its Longlist". Scotiabank. 2008-09-15. Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2016-05-21. 
  7. ^ "George Ryga Award Winners". BC Book Awards. Retrieved 2016-05-21. 
  8. ^ "Galloway nominated". Surrey International Writers' Conference. 2008-11-25. Retrieved 2016-05-21. 
  9. ^ Green, Zoe. “War notes.” The Observer., 29 June. 2008.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Sharrock, David (17 June 2008). "Out of the war into a book and into a rage". The Australian. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
  11. ^ a b Deryk Houston (January 27, 2012). "Vedran Smailović – "The Cellist of Sarajevo"". Economic Voice. 
  12. ^ "The Cellist of Sarajevo". One Maryland One Book. 2013. 
  13. ^ Kaye, Marcia (2014-05-02). "The Confabulist by Steven Galloway: Review". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2016-05-22. 
  14. ^ Donohue, Keith (2014-05-27). "'The Confabulist', a novel by Steven Galloway". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-05-22. 
  15. ^ Hendrix, Jenny (2014-06-01). "Illusion". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-05-22. 

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