Two lovers remain in a gallery of the Hermitage, refusing to shelter underground while Leningrad is under siege. Freezing and gnawed by hunger, they recite poems and stories to pass the time, re-enacting the paintings that are being evacuated from the museum. As their voices and bodies begin to fail and fragment, their conversation is interspersed with sections from a diary – a real document from a person who died during the blockade. This is the centrepiece of ‘Living Pictures’, Polina Barskova’s genre-defying collection of fiction that reckons with the history and aftermath of the siege of Leningrad. Drawing on archival material and refracting it through fiction, Barskova draws arresting, fearless portraits of the lives caught up in the blockade.