The Noise of Time
A tribute from Barnes to Shostakovich: a composer, conformist and a toy in the hands of the powerful ones.
Our readers are already familiar with a significant English novelist, journalist and a Man Booker Prize laureate Julian Barnes (1946, Leicester). He is an author who has brought back a good reputation and a prestige to writers in these times of many junk books.
A Russian composer Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich (1906 – 1975), damned and world-famous, recognized and protected by Stalin himself is the main character of Barnes’s newest prose called The Noise of Time (2016). Prokofiev and Pasternak, dashing noble marshals, cunning personal drivers, wives, lovers, prostitutes, Stalin’s pro-regime sidekicks and speculators of the cult of personality – all of them, together with Shostakovich, come to life in this novel. Barnes filled the pages with masterful sentences looking for not only artistic, but also factual truth.
We do not meet the atmosphere of war and terror directly, but through the story of a top-class Soviet composer and the moments of a silly horror, beauty collectivisation, and intense efforts to engineer souls and ideological control of human and artistic stories.
Barnes is not trying to impress the reader by a cheap shallow aesthetics nor a made-up ethics. He does not use too many jokes, but stays noble and witty. He likes the main character and he is very close to him. Barnes fights for him using all the right artistic means. The truth is scattered like a golden dust. He creates a magical underworld and does not want to blind the reader nor open their eyes to shocking facts; he simply wants to bring him to the essence, a trust in life. He is doing it using an honest work of fiction. An observant reader will notice that this book is easy to read and it is very up-to-date, because the novel is not only about Shostakovich, but also about the author himself and about all of us.