Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

by M. T. Anderson

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Overview

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson

A 2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist

National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson delivers a brilliant and riveting account of the Siege of Leningrad and the role played by Russian composer Shostakovich and his Leningrad Symphony.

In September 1941, Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history—almost three years of bombardment and starvation that culminated in the harsh winter of 1943–1944. More than a million citizens perished. Survivors recall corpses littering the frozen streets, their relatives having neither the means nor the strength to bury them. Residents burned books, furniture, and floorboards to keep warm; they ate family pets and—eventually—one another to stay alive. Trapped between the Nazi invading force and the Soviet government itself was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who would write a symphony that roused, rallied, eulogized, and commemorated his fellow citizens—the Leningrad Symphony, which came to occupy a surprising place of prominence in the eventual Allied victory.

This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power—and layered meaning—of music in beleaguered lives. Symphony for the City of the Dead is a masterwork thrillingly told and impeccably researched by National Book Award–winning author M. T. Anderson.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763691004
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 02/07/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 107,427
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: 990L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

M. T. Anderson is the author of Feed, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, as well as The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume I: The Pox Party, winner of the National Book Award and a New York Times bestseller, and its sequel, The Kingdom on the Waves, which was also a New York Times bestseller. Both volumes were also named Michael L. Printz Honor Books. M. T. Anderson lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
toniFMAMTC More than 1 year ago
I never knew what the Soviet Union went through around WWII. This was almost like an apocalyptic read, with all the horrors they lived. And the kicker is that it’s true.
YoungMensanBookParade More than 1 year ago
Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T Anderson is an inspiring true story about the life of Dmitri Shostakovich, a composer during Stalin’s Great Terror and Hitler’s siege of Leningrad. Shostakovich was born in Leningrad, Russia, which at the time of his birth was called St. Petersburg. (It’s called St. Petersburg again in present day) Shostakovich showed a penchant for music even at a young age. When Shostakovich was born, the last tsar of Russia was ruling. As a child, he was tutored in piano. When he was still very young, the tsar was overthrown and it seemed as though a revolution was beginning. Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik party, was one of the parties vying for control of the government. The Bolshevik party knew that they would not win control by votes, so they launched an attack on the palace and seized power through force. But, in 1924, Lenin died. A communist known as Josef Stalin quickly seized power, and his enemies vanished. Stalin began something known as his Five Year Plan. Around 6 million countryside peasants died at the beginning of this plan. At first, Stalin’s rule didn’t affect Shostakovich at all, but soon his music began to get very popular. And it wasn’t a good thing to be popular during Stalin’s rule. Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T Anderson is an amazing book. It’s filled with tales of human atrocity and contrasting human greatness and sacrifice. I was deeply moved by this story and give it a 5 star rating. It is very well written and has so much detail that you felt so much empathy for the people of Russia. Symphony for the City of the Dead is a wonderful biography of the life of the great composer, Dmitri Shostakovich. Review by Stephanie M., 12, Cleveland Area Mensa
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
"We can trust no one. In a regime where words are watched, lies are rewarded, and silence is survival, there is no truth." In September 1941, Hitler's forces moved against the Soviet Union in a bid to take the country's capital in Moscow and the historic city of Leningrad (now and previously St. Petersburg). So began one of the longest sieges in Western history. More than a million people died over the course of the years-long siege. Amazingly, despite crippling his own military from the top down and breeding a culture of such fear that officials preferred to make ill-advised decisions rather than risk contradicting him, Stalin and the Soviet citizenry held out. Faced with starvation, blitzkrieg attacks, and the continued severity and dangers of life in Soviet Russia, the residents of Leningrad held on. In the midst of this bleak landscape, music became an unlikely ray of hope. Varying wildly between a darling of the communist party and one of its biggest perceived heretics, Dmitri Shostakovich was a composer known around the world. With threats everywhere from both the Nazi's and his own government, Shostakovich would write a symphony to rouse the Soviet public during their time of need. The symphony would speak when the people feared to, it would mark all that was lost during the Communist Revolution and the Siege of Leningrad. It would give voice to sorrow and loss as well as hope and redemption. Shostakovich's symphony would offer common ground between the unlikely allies of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. This is the story of that symphony, the country that inspired it, the compose who wrote it, and the war that shaped all of them in Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (2015) by M.T. Anderson. Anderson offers a thoroughly researched look at a slice of WWII history that might not be familiar to many Americans. Symphony for the City of the Dead begins with the bizarre transport of Shostakovich's symphony (via microfilm) from the Soviet Union to the United States. After that prologue the book is framed around Shostakovich's own life from his early childhood to his death. The book touches upon the communist revolution and explores the composer's complicated relationships with his country and the Communist Party. Symphony for the City of the Dead includes an extensive bibliography and footnotes in the backmatter detailing Anderson's sources throughout the novel. Strangely, for such an iconic figure, little is known as fact about Shostakovich's life. Anderson is careful to couch his own thoughts in research and supporting documentation while also noting when the narrative veers into supposition. The book also offers a thorough and detailed accounts of the movements that led to the Siege of Leningrad ranging from Stalin's wild incompetence and paranoia to Hitler's Wermacht strategy. Because of the content and the level of research involved, Symphony for the City of the Dead is a dense book. The material gains a more narrative quality after the first hundred pages but it takes a while to really dig into the material. Anderson offers a strange mix of the bloody nightmare that was Communist Russia during the Siege of Leningrad and the optimistic hope of post-war Russia. Symphony for the City of the Dead is a fascinating example of the power of story--especially the power of art and music--as well as thoughtful look at how the truth can be shaped in the telling.