Symphony for the city of the dead

Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

456 pages

English language

Published Dec. 13, 2015 by Candlewick Press.

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5 stars (3 reviews)

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 …

4 editions

Review of 'Symphony for the city of the dead' on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

I have an enduring fascination with the story of Shostakovich and the Leningrad Symphony, and this book digs deep into the open wound that is his life and this symphony and reveals the full spectacular irony of it all. A wonderfully written book, ostensibly for teenaged nerds but really for people of any age confused by the specific cruelty of the Stalinist totalitarian state culture. I've read a lot of other attempts to explain this particular period of history, and this book is the best I've read. Honorable mention has to go to the graphic design of the book as well. The book is a clean, Soviet modernist design, the pages neatly delineated with a classic font and small red blocks that hint at the red wedges of the future. A small thing, but like the best video games, the design supports and applies the topic, making the experience of …

Review of 'Symphony for the city of the dead' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A work of beauty as strange as its subject, I think this book should ideally be taught in schools. I doubt this will ever be, seeing as its subject is often too brutal for me, at least, to feel safe foisting it on young and already nihilistic teenagers. Regardless, this book has something to say, and it says it eloquently and evenly, never shouting its message, but getting it across nonetheless. I highly recommend the version read by Anderson himself.


  • Composers
  • Juvenile literature
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • History


  • Saint Petersburg (Russia)
  • Russia