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An incredible story of struggle and survival during the siege of Leningrad during the Second World War

The 900-day siege of Leningrad (1941-44) was one of the turning points of the Second World War. It slowed down the German advance into Russia and became a national symbol of survival and resistance. An estimated one million civilians died, most of them from cold and starvation. Lydia Ginzburg, a respected literary scholar (who meanwhile wrote prose 'for the desk drawer' through seven decades of Soviet rule), survived. Using her own using notes and sketches she wrote during the siege, along with conversations and impressions collected over the years, she distilled the collective experience of life under siege. Through painful depiction of the harrowing conditions of that period, Ginzburg created a paean to the dignity, vitality and resilience of the human spirit.

This original translation by Alan Myers has been revised and annotated by Emily van Buskirk. This edition includes ‘A Story of Pity and Cruelty’, a recently discovered documentary narrative translated into English for the first time by Angela Livingstone.


Most Leningraders had suffered enough for one lifetime (the first world war, the civil war, the winter war, two famines and two major waves of political terror) when in June 1941 the Nazis blockaded all supply routes to their city. Some 750,000 civilians died of cold and hunger. Lidiya Ginzburg's Notes from the Blockade is a classic account of the siege


Much more than just an 'historical documentary'. It has a universal applicability. Hard not to weep as one reads; impossible - because she writes with such lucidity - not to feel ourselves actually present in these terrible scenes... This small book is a major work - a worthy memorial to a great woman, and a truly horrible period of Russian history

A.N. Wilson, Evening Standard

An account of the 900-day siege of Leningrad by a member of the Russian literary generation of Akhmatova, Pasternak and Mandelstam. Ginzburg writes with splendid imaginative particularity--never tragically, though--about how bombs and starvation work. And she writes--how could someone of her heritage and generation not write?--about the nobility of the human spirit so as to make it as tangible as cardboard shoes

Los Angeles Times

Tells more of the experience of life in twentieth-century Russia than many multi-volume novels

Alexandr Kushner

A startling and moving description of what it's like to slowly starve to death.

Independent on Sunday

Her journal, though acutely and poetically observed, is not mainly a record of the horrors themselves, but more of a rumination on their psychological and moral implications. Evoking the daily details of the siege, Ginzburg captures them and transforms them


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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    September 15, 2016

    Vintage Classics

    240 pages

    RRP $22.99

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  • EBook


    May 31, 2011

    Vintage Digital

    240 pages

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