"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

February 21, 2016

"The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes (short review)

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes enters the head of Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich (with Stravinsky the greatest 20th century composer) at three critical moments in his life: in 1936 when his opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" has been condemned by Stalin himself and the composer fears arrest; in 1948 when Stalin orders him to join a propaganda tour to the U.S. where he has to read out prepared speeches denouncing Stravinsky (whom he admires); and in 1960 when he lets himself be pushed to join the Communist Party and reaps criticism from his friends. Shostakovich was decidedly not a hero or a dissident (and he was probably more "red" than Barnes makes him), but how many people would have sacrificed their career and family to stand up to a totalitarian regime? What his example shows is how inhuman totalitarianism is, for it makes liars and dissemblers of us all. Time to listen to one of Shostakovich wonderful string quartets...