Subscribe to The Horn Book
Visit the Boston Globe–Horn Book website.

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Author M. T. Anderson’s 2016 BGHB NF Honor Speech

anderson_symphony for the city of the deadThis book is a hymn, I hope, to a composer I love and to the power of music in general. It began when my interest was piqued by the idea of a symphony considered so important that it was transferred onto microfilm like some dossier in a spy novel and smuggled halfway across the globe. Over the years, my sense of the project has deepened far beyond that, to a real passion for the larger story of the struggle of the Soviet people, trapped between Hitler and Stalin — two of the most terrifying dictators the world has ever known.

Why did I decide to write the book for teens, instead of adults? I think it goes back to two moments in my own youth: first, my memory of reading John Hersey’s Hiroshima in eighth grade, and having my mind blown by the realization that war was much more complicated than I had ever understood before. War was not just a simple clash of good and evil. And then a second moment: years later, when I was eighteen or nineteen, I heard a piece by Shostakovich (one of his cello concerti), and suddenly the harmony swerved in a way I’d never heard before. It was beyond major and minor. Like that engagement with Hersey’s WWII reporting, I felt my world broadening; I suddenly recognized complexities I’d never even suspected.

Now I’m an adult, and I’m used to dissonance and to the unbearable crimes of war. I take them for granted. But I shouldn’t. So I wanted to write this book for readers who still feel outrage at discord, who still dream of a more harmonious world.

From the January/February 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more on the 2016 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB16. Read M. T. Anderson’s 2016 Horn Book at Simmons Keynote: “Outside the Box.”

M. T. Anderson About M. T. Anderson

M. T. Anderson's latest book is Landscape with Invisible Hand. He is the winner of a 2016 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor for Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad; a 2009 BGHB Fiction Honor for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves; the 2007 BGHB Fiction Award for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party; a 2003 BGHB Fiction Honor for Feed; and a 2002 BGHB Nonfiction Honor for Handel, Who Knew What He Liked (all Candlewick).

Share
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*