Steven Galloway

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Steven Galloway
Steven Galloway at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival in 2014
Galloway at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival in 2014
Born (1975-07-13) July 13, 1975 (age 46)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Notable worksThe Cellist of Sarajevo

Steven Galloway (born July 13, 1975)[1] is a Canadian novelist and a former professor at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of the award-winning novel The Cellist of Sarajevo (2008).

Early life[edit]

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).


Galloway taught creative writing at the University of British Columbia for many years. He also taught writing at Simon Fraser University.[2] He published his first novel, Finnie Walsh, in 2000, a second novel, Ascension, in 2003, and followed this with a third book, The Cellist of Sarajevo, in 2008.[3]

In 2013 Galloway became a tenured associate professor at UBC, and served as acting chair of the creative writing program. In 2014 he published his fourth novel, The Confabulist. In 2015 he was confirmed in the position of chair.[4]

Sexual and physical assault accusations & defamation lawsuit[edit]

In November 2015, UBC announced that Galloway was suspended from his position with pay because allegations, which were not specified in the announcement, had been made against him.[4] The Faculty Association of UBC criticized the institution for announcing the suspension, stating it was an invasion of privacy. From December to April, Mary Ellen Boyd, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia conducted an investigation on behalf of UBC. In June 2016, Galloway was fired from the university; in announcing Galloway's termination, university spokesperson Philip Steenkamp cited "a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of trust". The nature of the misconduct was not made public at the time.[5] The Canadian Press spoke with five of the people who had filed complaints against Galloway, and found that complaints included alleged "sexual harassment, bullying, threats and an incident in which Galloway is accused of slapping a student".[6]

In November 2016, a large group of Canadian authors, including Margaret Atwood and Yann Martel, signed an open letter, written by Joseph Boyden, criticizing UBC for carrying out its investigation in secret and denying Galloway the right to due process. Some of the authors, including Miriam Toews and Wayne Johnston, later withdrew their names and support.[7][8] The letter caused controversy in the Canadian literary community, with some accusing the signatories of taking Galloway's side over that of his accusers.[9]

In December 2016, Galloway revealed that he had had an affair with a student, for which he apologized. Galloway's lawyer stated that after an exhaustive review of the whole of the evidence, Madame Justice Boyd found on a balance of probabilities that Galloway had not committed sexual assault and that Boyd had dismissed several other allegations of misconduct against him as well, including all of the allegations brought by additional complainants. [6] In 2018, UBC was forced to pay Galloway $167,000 for violating his privacy rights and damaging his reputation.[10] On July 13, 2018, Galloway published an essay in the Toronto National Post asserting that he was "not a monster," despite what he felt had been a coordinated campaign to paint him as such, and revealed that the woman who had accused him of assault was the one with whom he had had the affair.[11] Steenkamp told a local newspaper the same day, however, that the dismissal was "fully justified" and that the sexual allegations against Galloway were not the only issues the university had considered.[12] This comment was ruled to be a breach of the confidentiality agreement, which forbade public comments on the reasons for Galloway's dismissal.[13]

In October 2018, Galloway filed a defamation lawsuit against the woman who accused him of sexual assault, along with 20 others who had spread the allegations on Twitter and within UBC, in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.[14] The defendants contended that this was an example of a strategic lawsuit against public participation. Before deciding whether to dismiss the suit, the BC Supreme Court ordered Galloway's accuser to make a series of documents available in discovery. This ruling, which the Supreme Court of Canada declined to review, was upheld by a panel consisting of Chief Justice Robert Bauman and two other judges in April 2020.[15] The disclosure revealed that the accuser (referred to in court documents as A.B.) had copied a Fifth Estate reporter in her initial complaint to UBC president Martha Piper, contradicting some of her previous testimony.[16] Exchanges with reporters led A.B. to write in a subsequent email that was at her insistence read out to all UBC Creative Writing Program Faculty that "the CBC legal team thought my evidence was damning." She referred to this claim as an exaggeration following a statement by CBC that no such vetting had taken place. This assertion of "vetting" was the underpinning of a threat to sue UBC and the Creative Writing Program if they did not acquiesce to her demand to take action against Galloway. As reported in the Globe and Mail, A.B. said:

What I am about to say is not a threat it is a fact: I spoke to a lawyer after I got off the phone with you because there is a case for me to sue the university. ... [There] is almost certainly a strong case for suing the Creative Writing Department. I am stating this as a fact – not a threat!!! I think that skeptical or shocked members of the department might need to know how much more serious this could get for the department. If they don’t act.[17]

A nine day hearing on the lawsuit began in April 2021. During the proceedings, one of A.B.'s friends argued that her tweets about Galloway were inconsequential and that she had already suffered career setbacks by criticizing him.[18] Galloway described how the allegations against him had destroyed his career, specifically mentioning the fact that his publisher withdrew a three book contract in 2018, and how he had been reduced to doing manual labor jobs, including cleaning swimming pools, for a living. He also took issue with a critic's review of a 2018 art exhibit, featuring art by A.B., which described the alleged assault without naming Galloway.[19] It was revealed that two defendants, UBC Professors Keith Maillard and Annabel Lyon, had organized the meeting which first alerted other department members to the allegations — a meeting which one attendee described as "[an effort] protect students and faculty" and another described as "a toxic, traumatic event". Maillard and Lyon, who were on A.B.'s committee, rejected claims that their handling of the allegations was related to the fact that they had approved her application to graduate without a complete thesis.[17]


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".[20] Galloway was recognized for successfully portraying a child's perspective without "giving a child an adult's perspective".[21] The ethnic and economic diversity of the characters had critics describing it as a "truly Canadian book both in content and sensibility".[21] It was noted that "The style of Galloway's early literary influences, Farley Mowat and John Irving, is apparent"[20] 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."[22]

The Cellist of Sarajevo[edit]

Galloway's third novel, The Cellist of Sarajevo (2008), was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award, longlisted for the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize[23] and won the 2009 Evergreen Award, the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature[24] and the Borders Original Voices Award.[25] It was heralded as "the work of an expert" by The Guardian,[26] 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.[1] 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".[27] 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 after it had been 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.[27] When Smailović learned of the publication, he expressed feelings of indignation and dismay, objecting to the use of his story and his personal information without permission or compensation,[28] and pointing out differences between the story and his actual life.[27] However, a meeting between the two took place in 2012, moving a step closer to conflict resolution.[29]

Galloway, who has been described as "honest and talented young man with no intentions to steal",[29] claimed that Smailović's act of playing the cello as a protest was a public act,[27] and that fiction writers were under no obligation to pay those who inspired them, and that it was unreasonable to expect that.[27] Galloway insisted that the cellist in his story, while inspired by the photos and story of Smailović, was imaginary.[30] Galloway sent the cellist a signed copy of the book.

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.[31] 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.[32][33] In the National Post, Zoe Whittall said "But this is Steven Galloway we’re talking about — a brilliant Vancouver novelist, and the author of The Cellist of Sarajevo — and I believe that, no matter the setting or conceit, a good novelist can make anything worth your while. And Galloway is nothing if not a good novelist. I’m happy to report that The Confabulist, his fourth novel, is a stunning achievement."[34] Conversely, Jenny Hendrix of the New York Times criticized the narrative as heavy handed.[35]


  1. ^ a b "The Cellist Of Sarajevo". Sydney Morning Herald, Andrew Riemer, reviewer, February 22, 2008
  2. ^ "2009 BC Book Prizes Short Lists & Winners". BC Book Prizes website accessed December 3, 2016.
  3. ^ Rinehart, Dianne (2014-03-13). "Steven Galloway and the lessons of The Cellist of Sarajevo". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  4. ^ a b "Under a cloud: How UBC’s Steven Galloway affair has haunted a campus and changed lives". The Globe and MailNov. 21, 2016 Marsha Lederman
  5. ^ "Author Steven Galloway no longer employed at UBC following 'record of misconduct'". CBC. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Author Steve Galloway apologizes in first statement since being fired by UBC". Toronto Star, Laura Kane of The Canadian Press. Nov. 23, 2016 page A16.
  7. ^ Berman, Sarah (21 November 2016). "Why Every Canadian Author Has an Opinion About a Campus Sex Assault Case". Vice. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  8. ^ "Authors withdraw their names from open letter regarding UBC's Steven Galloway case". Quill and Quire. 21 November 2016. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  9. ^ Kane, Laura (November 16, 2016). "Prominent authors face backlash over letter to UBC over Steven Galloway firing". The Canadian Press.
  10. ^ "UBC must pay fired author Steven Galloway $167,000 for privacy violation". National Post.
  11. ^ Galloway, Steven (July 13, 2018). "Steven Galloway in his own words: I'm not a monster. I won't let false allegations define me". National Post. Toronto. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  12. ^ Luymes, Glenda (July 13, 2018). "UBC responds to Steven Galloway's first-person account of the sexual allegations that derailed his career". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  13. ^ Mason, Gary (Oct 16, 2018). "UBC ordered to pay author Steven Galloway for breaching confidentiality terms". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  14. ^ "Court ruling supports Steven Galloway's request for documents in defamation case". The Globe and Mail. 2020. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  15. ^ "Supreme Court won't review disclosure ruling in Steven Galloway's case of alleged defamation". The Canadian Press. 2020-08-13. Retrieved 2021-07-05.
  16. ^ Cran, Brad (2021-04-17). "Truth, lies and levers of power". Substack. Retrieved 2021-07-05.
  17. ^ a b Lederman, Marsha (2021-07-03). "Details of UBC actions revealed through defamation suit brought by Steven Galloway". The Globe And Mail. Retrieved 2021-07-05.
  18. ^ Quan, Douglas (2021-04-08). "She accused a university prof of sexual assault. Now he's suing for defamation. Some fear 'landmark' case could have a chilling effect". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2021-06-21.
  19. ^ Lederman, Marsha (2021-04-19). "Sexual harassment among the reasons author Galloway fired from UBC, court told". The Globe And Mail. Retrieved 2021-06-21.
  20. ^ a b Davis, Charlene. "Galloway, Steven." The Canadian Encyclopedia Archived 2008-08-27 at the Wayback Machine. Historica Foundation, 1 Sep 2007.
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ "Ascension Reviewed on Quill and Quire". Quill and Quire. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  23. ^ "The 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize Announces its Longlist". Scotiabank. 2008-09-15. Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  24. ^ "George Ryga Award Winners". BC Book Awards. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  25. ^ "Galloway nominated". Surrey International Writers' Conference. 2008-11-25. Archived from the original on 2016-06-04. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  26. ^ Green, Zoe. "War notes." The Observer., 29 June. 2008.
  27. ^ a b c d e Sharrock, David (17 June 2008). "Out of the war into a book and into a rage". The Australian. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  28. ^ Elina Penttinen (2 September 2013). Joy and International Relations: A New Methodology. Routledge. pp. 122–. ISBN 978-1-136-73840-1.
  29. ^ a b Deryk Houston (January 27, 2012). "Vedran Smailović – "The Cellist of Sarajevo"". Economic Voice.
  30. ^ "The Cellist of Sarajevo". One Maryland One Book. 2013. Archived from the original on 2015-01-20.
  31. ^ "Book Talk: Steven Galloway on magic, memories and Houdini". Chicago Tribune, June 19, 2014, By Nicholas P. Brown
  32. ^ Kaye, Marcia (2014-05-02). "The Confabulist by Steven Galloway: Review". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2016-05-22.
  33. ^ Donohue, Keith (2014-05-27). "'The Confabulist', a novel by Steven Galloway". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-05-22.
  34. ^ Special to National Post (May 9, 2014). "The Confabulist, by Steven Galloway: Review". National Post.
  35. ^ Hendrix, Jenny (2014-06-01). "Illusion". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-05-22.

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