The Noise of Time

Julian Barnes     Recommended by Alan    

“… a novel that is powerfully affecting, a condensed masterpiece that traces the lifelong battle of one man’s conscience, one man’s art, with the insupportable exigencies of totalitarianism.” Alex Preston (The Guardian)

Barnes’ new novel is a fictional account of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s lifelong struggle to compose in Soviet Russia. In Barnes’ account, the composer is by nature (almost haplessly) non-conformist – not an ideal character trait in an era that spanned the initial revolution, then the reigns of Lenin, Stalin and Kruschev. Driven to compose, Shostakovich navigates the deadly vagaries of a totalitarian society where truth is impossible to know.

Though mordantly humorous at times, it is Barnes’ ability to convey Shostakovich’s latent dread that marks this novel out. Told in close third person, the novel recreates the bewildering menace of Soviet Russia. Quietly brilliant, this is a great novel.

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