The Noise of Time

The Noise of Time (2016) by Julian Barnes is a fictional biography of Dmitri Shostakovich. The book concentrates on how Shostakovich lived under the horror of Soviet Communism. Even as a world famous celebrity Shostakovich was subject to the terror and uncertainty of Stalin’s whims. Shostakovich was interviewed by the NKVD and almost sentenced.

Barnes is an incredibly good writer. His skill in getting the reader into the head of his characters is remarkable. His succinct, careful writing is clear, easily comprehensible and precise.

I must confess the book didn’t grab me nearly as much as some of Barnes’ other books such as Flaubert’s Parrot and The Sense of an Ending have. It may be that it’s really just me. I intend to go back and re-read this book at some point. But it may also be that the wonderfully measured and controlled writing of Barnes doesn’t fit with the story. The conscience of an artist, or anyone who is successful but who is also aware of the horrors of a regime being coerced by that regime might perhaps need some more desperation or dread.

However, I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it as one of Julian Barnes better books, just not quite his best.


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