Shostakovich’s life reimagined in new Julian Barnes novel

Posted on: May 4, 2016

In Tuesday’s (5/3) Wall Street Journal, Tobias Grey writes that Julian Barnes recently published novel The Noise of Time “is concerned less with the composer’s music than the implications of his coercive treatment in Soviet Russia…. The novel begins in Moscow in the 1930s … when Stalin’s campaign of terror left many Russians fearing for their lives.… Through a mixture of luck and his importance as a symbol of Soviet brilliance, Shostakovich never was arrested…. ‘The Noise of Time’ is divided into three parts.… The first of these was 1936 when the composer was condemned for ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,’ followed by 1948 when he was forced to go to America and publicly denounce pro-Western contemporaries such as Igor Stravinsky. ‘Then I began wondering if anything happened to Shostakovich in 1960 and found it was the year he applied to join the Communist Party,’ Mr. Barnes says. ‘It’s very rare that you get a structure given to you like that.’ ” Julian Barnes’s 1984 novel Flaubert’s Parrot speculated about the inner life of writer Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary) and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Posted May 4, 2016