jazzy_dave: (bookish)
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Julian Barnes "The Noise Of Time"  (Vintage)

Shostakovich and his struggles to maintain his artistic integrity in the face of the sometimes urgent, sometimes insinuating pressures of "Power" are brought to life beautifully in this short novel. As he gets older, Julian Barnes seems to need fewer and fewer words to get across what he needs to, and this novel is short but intense, and primarily about Fear.

In this telling, Shostakovich is primarily driven by fear and the seeming inevitability of being crushed by Stalin's apparatus of repression - always referred to as "Power". The lasting image from the book is of the scared composer, standing every night outside his apartment by lift, with a small suitcase, waiting for the secret police to arrive (so that they don't disturb his wife). And yet, they don't come for him, whereas they do come for many of his peers. The paranoia of being one who remains, seems almost worse than being arrested (but of course, not actually worse).

Shostakovich is not portrayed as a hero, not even as a courageous man, although he does his best to stand up to Stalin in a telephone call where the Man himself smoothly persuades (but what choice does he really have?) the composer to join a cultural delegation to London. Its both a brave, pathetic and utterly futile resistance. Is he compromised - undoubtedly yes, both personally and artistically. In my opinion Barnes lets him off a little easily here but his point is to show the gradual assimilation of the composer and is ultimate submission to "Power"
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