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About the book
  • Published: 15 September 2016
  • ISBN: 9780099583387
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $19.99

Notes From the Blockade




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.

  • Pub date: 15 September 2016
  • ISBN: 9780099583387
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Lydia Ginzburg

Lydia Yakovlevna Ginzburg was born in Odessa in 1902, and moved to Leningrad in 1922, where she studied at the famous Institute for Art History as a student and later as a colleague of Victor Shklovsky, Yury Tynianov and Boris Eikhenbaum, the major figures of Russian Formalism. She survived the purges, the 900-day siege of Leningrad and the anti-Semitic campaigns that followed the war to become, in the 1960s-’80s, a friend and inspiration to a younger generation of Petersburg literary scholars and poets, including Alexander Kushner and Elena Shvarts. She was a prominent cultural figure in the years of perestroika, when she began to publish notes and essays that she been writing for the ‘desk drawer’ starting in the 1920s. Her books include venerated works of literary scholarship such as On Lyric Poetry, On Psychological Prose (published in the English translation from Princeton University Press) and On the Literary Hero. The collection of her prose that appeared in her lifetime, Person at a Writing Table (1989), and which contained Notes from the Blockade, as well as posthumous editions, have established Ginzburg as innovative author of what she called ‘in-between’ genres – notes, essays, and fragmentary narratives – that describe and analyse the human experience of a historically catastrophic era spanning much of the twentieth century. Lydia Ginzburg died in 1990.

Lydia Yakovlevna Ginzburg was born in Odessa in 1902, and moved to Leningrad in 1922, where she studied at the famous Institute for Art History as a student and later as a colleague of Victor Shklovsky, Yury Tynianov and Boris Eikhenbaum, the major figures of Russian Formalism. She survived the purges, the 900-day siege of Leningrad and the anti-Semitic campaigns that followed the war to become, in the 1960s-’80s, a friend and inspiration to a younger generation of Petersburg literary scholars and poets, including Alexander Kushner and Elena Shvarts. She was a prominent cultural figure in the years of perestroika, when she began to publish notes and essays that she been writing for the ‘desk drawer’ starting in the 1920s. Her books include venerated works of literary scholarship such as On Lyric Poetry, On Psychological Prose (published in the English translation from Princeton University Press) and On the Literary Hero. The collection of her prose that appeared in her lifetime, Person at a Writing Table (1989), and which contained Notes from the Blockade, as well as posthumous editions, have established Ginzburg as innovative author of what she called ‘in-between’ genres – notes, essays, and fragmentary narratives – that describe and analyse the human experience of a historically catastrophic era spanning much of the twentieth century. Lydia Ginzburg died in 1990.


Praise for Notes From the Blockade

“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”

Guardian

“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”

Newsday


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