Almost a year after we began working on “The Road of Life,” we were greatly moved by an Op-Ed column that David Brooks wrote in the New York Times called “Love Story,” about the meeting that took place in Leningrad between the philosopher and historian Isaiah Berlin and the poet Anna Akhmatova. It was a transcendent evening that changed both writers’ lives forever. Read David Brooks’s inspiring account here.
A number of books proved invaluable as we researched the history of Leningrad during the course of writing “The Road of Life.” As much as possible, we wanted every historical detail mentioned in the musical to be accurate. What’s more, we wanted to accurately capture the essence of the emotional experience of living through the siege. To do so, the letters, diaries, and memoirs that are quoted in a number of the books below helped enormously in providing a moving and vivid portrait of life in Leningrad during the deadliest blockade in human history. I am indebted to the historians who researched this period with such a passionate commitment to telling the truth of this tragic time. But most especially, I am grateful to the hundreds of men, women, and children who defied bitter cold and extreme hunger to document what they witnessed. It was from them that I learned that even in a time of brutal inhumanity, there were Leningraders who endeavored to transcend the darkness, whether it meant giving up their day’s ration of bread to a sick child or taking in a family whose home had been destroyed in one of the many frequent bombings — it is their persistent, unconquerable humanity that we hope to honor in “The Road of Life.”
Symphony for the City of the Dead by National Book Award-winner M.T. Anderson is a powerful and compellingly written, exhaustively researched account of the siege of Leningrad and how the composer Dmitri Shostakovich turned tragedy into art with his Seventh Symphony, known as the Leningrad Symphony. I heartily recommend this riveting work to anyone interested in learning more about this pivotal period in history.
Leningrad: Siege and Symphony by Brian Moynahan (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Voicing the Soviet Experience: The Poetry of Ol’ga Berggol’ts by Katharine Hodgson (The British Academy)
The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad by Harrison Salisbury (Da Capo Press)
Writing the Siege of Leningrad: Women’s Diaries, Memoirs, and Documentary Prose compiled by Cynthia Simmons and Nina Perlina (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Leningrad by Anna Reid (Walker)
Shurik: A Story of the Siege of Leningrad by Kyra Petrovskaya Wayne (The Lyons Press)
Leningrad: State of Siege by Michael Jones (Basic Books)
City of Thieves by David Benioff (Plume)
Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte (New York Review Books)
Producer Ken Davenport (http://www.