Some books are written purely to entertain. Some books are written with a purpose in mind, to explore a theme and somehow communicate an essential aspect of humanity from one person to another. This is art through language. The Cellist of Sarajevo exemplifies this.
Steven Galloway very clearly states in his afterword that this is not a historical novel; it is not meant to accurately convey the details of the siege of Sarajevo. What it does instead is portray the thoughts and feelings of those who endure such a harrowing event. It is truly, at its core, a struggle to retain one's humanity. As terrible as the war is, the thought that it might never end, that it might become the new, normal reality of day-to-day living, is even scarier.
Books like this serve an integral role in society. The Internet has given us instantaneous information propagation, but it has also desensitized us, forced us to increase our levels of apathy just to get by. The Cellist of Sarajevo pokes through that shroud of apathy to remind us of our humanity, not by shocking us with a depiction of human rights violations, but by showing how ordinary people, like us, attempt to survive in the face of such events.
Steven Galloway is not from Sarajevo, did not live through the siege. Yet he masterfully does what a great writer can: uses a setting as a vehicle for telling a story that transcends one time and place and becomes an experience well worth the read.