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The War Within: Diaries From the Siege of Leningrad: A Talk by Alexis Peri

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Pushkin House is delighted to welcome Alexis Peri to give an insightful talk on her book 'The War Within: Diaries From the Siege of Leningrad' which has been shortlisted for the 2018 Pushkin House Russian Book Prize.

In September 1941, two and a half months after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, the German Wehrmacht encircled Leningrad. Cut off from the rest of Russia, the city remained blockaded for 872 days, at a cost of almost a million civilian lives, making it one of the longest and deadliest sieges in modern history.

The War Within chronicles the Leningrad blockade from the perspective of those who endured the unendurable. Drawing on 125 unpublished diaries written by individuals from all walks of Soviet life, Alexis Peri tells the tragic story of how citizens struggled to make sense of a world collapsing around them.  Residents recorded in intimate detail the toll taken on minds and bodies by starvation, bombardment, and disease. For many, diary writing became instrumental to survival—a tangible reminder of their humanity. The journals also reveal that Leningraders began to reexamine Soviet life and ideology from new, often critical perspectives.

Praise for 'The War Within'

“Stand aside, Homer. I doubt whether even the author of the Iliad could have matched Alexis Peri’s account of the 872-day siege which Leningrad endured after Hitler’s army encircled the city in September 1941… [A] magnificent narrative.”—Jonathan Mirsky, The Spectator

“Synthesize[s] dozens of accounts to powerful and illuminating effect…A fascinating, insightful and nuanced work that incorporates much fresh research. Particularly rewarding is the close attention Peri pays to language.”—Anna Reid, The Times Literary Supplement

“In devastating intimacy, the diaries [written during the siege of Leningrad] disclose the private struggles of individuals to extract meaning from unimaginably dire circumstances, as well as the philosophical and psychological approaches they brought to bear on their suddenly unrecognizable lives and their own disappearing bodies… This is a People’s History of the siege, realized at last, and as such should be added to the short list of essential reading on the subject.”—Debra Dean, Washington Independent Review of Books

Alexis Peri is Assistant Professor of History at Boston University. Read an exclusive Pushkin House Book Prize Q&A with her discussing 'The War Within' on our blog here