The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

Is it the book, or is it me?

tnot“In May 1937 a man in his early thirties waits by the lift of a Leningrad apartment block. He waits all through the night, expecting to be taken away to the Big House. Any celebrity he has known in the previous decade is no use to him now. And few who are taken to the Big House ever return. […] A story about the collision of Art and Power, about human compromise, human cowardice and human courage, it is the work of a true master.” GoodReads.

The main thing I have taken away from The Noise of Time is that I did not understand it. It’s not a bad book or bad writing, but not only did I fail to grasp what it was telling me, I didn’t want to try either. Oh yes, the problem is definitely me.

The Noise of Time follows Shostakovich a composer in Stalinist Russia. Post-reading I can tell you that Shostakovich is a real person and Barnes takes the reader through certain/key moments in Shostakovich’s life. From what I can tell, Shostakovich managed to evade – on several occasions – the wrath of Stalin despite two denunciations. A very impressive feat considering the unpredictable nature of the regime. I  enjoyed Shostakovich’s self-loathing, his disgust at his own cowardice, it was easy to empathise with the need to survive pitted against a desire to be brave.

What is brilliant about the novel is Barnes and the amount of research and detail that went into telling this story. I’ll never be anything but impressed with Barnes, and I do urge you to read this book – if only to talk me through what I failed to understand.

7 thoughts on “The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

  1. Hahahaha, I’mma be honest, you are not SUPER making me want to read it. I get fed up with books that are tremendously opaque like this. Unless I am truly a devotee of the author’s writing (which is rareish), I usually give up on them. Helen Oyeyemi and Salman Rushdie are exceptions, I think — I get such a kick out of the way they write that I don’t mind at all when I’m a bit confused about what’s going on.


  2. It’s great that the amount of research really made the book intriguing and historically accurate, but a shame that it was hard to understand. I have read books like that before. >.<


  3. I caught a discussion about this book on Radio 4’s Saturday Review the other week in which A.S. Byatt (one of the guest reviewers) was saying that she thought it was a little thin on first reading. Interestingly, her view changed when she read it again. On the second reading, everything seemed to fall into place – the structure, the themes, the ideas behind the book. Maybe it’s one of those books that only ‘opens up’ with repeated reading?


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