Near the beginning of the book Svetlana is unhappy that someone is humming the tune of an officially banned piece of music. This is in early 1958. I shall not reveal exactly who is humming, suffice to say the music of concern is that of Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 Op. 60 “Leningrad”.
Written from (and during the siege of) Leningrad it was a massive symbol of resistance to Nazism and militarism. It later became apparent that Shostakovich interpreted his masterpiece as both a criticism of the Nazis and Stalinism. However, the symphony had by then become an inspiration to many Soviet people.
In 1948 Shostakovich was denounced in an “anti-formalism campaign” and his works banned. Svetlana hears someone humming part of the tune (near the end of the piece) whilst visiting her father and is furious that anyone would be flouting the decrees of the Supreme Soviet. She is a good Communist and believes in the cause of the proletariat!
With Stalin’s death in 1953 the public could again listen to Shostakovich, but it was not until May 1958 when he was officially “rehabilitated” under the new Khrushchev regime. Later in the book, Svetlana struggles to understand the liberalisation of policy and this symbolises the struggle between socialism and liberalism, as, of course, does her struggle with – and tragic attraction to – vampirism.
The core theme of the book is this conflict, using the theme of the needs and obligations of humanity (representing the ideological discipline and determination of Stalinism and Communism) versus the apparent individual freedom and total breakdown of responsibility to society (representing western-style liberalism).
Whilst this is a classical piece of music (and the longest of Shostakovich’s work), it is probably not my own choice of vampire-related music. I prefer the heavy metal genre (obviously there is none here, given the time period of the book – 1958-1960-ish), but hey, this is my book and I’ll play what I want to.
So look forward to jazz galore as Svetlana struggles to comprehend the social changes happening around her…