Summary Of Symphony For The City Of The Dead

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Author M.T. Anderson effectively captures the sentiment lived by the Russians in his book Symphony for the City of the Dead when he tells the story of a young man, Dmitri Shostakovich, who survived Joseph Stalin’s deadly regime and Adolf Hitler’s attack on his native city of Leningrad. Throughout the story, Stalin finds new ways to subjugate his people by eliminating anyone who contradicted his ideals. Then, the story takes a sinister path when the Germans attack on Russia during World War II becomes inevitable.
The story begins when a Soviet agent gives an American agent a “wooden box” which contained a microfilm with Shostakovich’s seventh symphony inscribed in it. This box was taken “across the desserts of the Middle East and North Africa to Cairo, then flown to Brazil, and from there to the United States” (p. 2). The symphony would be played across the country and it would encourage Americans to aid the Soviets in their attempt to defeat the Nazis.
Afterwards, Anderson goes back in time and reveals how the life of a genius, Shostakovich, was affected by a series of war conflicts including a revolution and World War I. Then, in October 1917, he also witnessed the birth of a Communist Russia after Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power. For a brief period, this new government supported and encouraged artists to develop their talents. The city became a place where “new art, new music, and new drama had to be found for a new world where workers ruled” (p. 37).

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