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The Noise of Time

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  20,583 ratings  ·  2,176 reviews
A compact masterpiece dedicated to the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich: Julian Barnes’s first novel since his best-selling, Man Booker Prize–winning The Sense of an Ending.

In 1936, Shostakovitch, just thirty, fears for his livelihood and his life. Stalin, hitherto a distant figure, has taken a sudden interest in his work and denounced his latest opera. Now, certain h
Hardcover, 1st edition, 184 pages
Published January 28th 2016 by Jonathan Cape
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Marianna This book is written in the rhythms of Shostakovitch's music. If you let the waves of music sweep over you, you'll get the rhythm and appreciate the b…moreThis book is written in the rhythms of Shostakovitch's music. If you let the waves of music sweep over you, you'll get the rhythm and appreciate the book. It is beautifully written, but requires some background knowledge of the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union (perhaps that's what's holding you back from loving this book). (less)
Ghita That's actually one of the things I like about the book: he mentions things that are only picked up much later. Feels like echoes traveling through th…moreThat's actually one of the things I like about the book: he mentions things that are only picked up much later. Feels like echoes traveling through the book. (less)

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Elyse  Walters
Having recently read "Do Not Say We Have Nothing", by Madeleine Thien where music came alive for me during heartbreaking times.....I naturally grabbed "The Noise of Time" to read next, ( which I've been wanting to read for some time anyway),......thinking I'd like to experience more music and art appreciation during turbulent times....and learn about a composer I knew next to nothing.
plus .....
I enjoyed Julian Barnes "The Sense of Ending".

Demitri Shostakovich- the great Russian Composer of the
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am inherently drawn to Russian literature or even books set in Russia written by non Russian authors. Perhaps, it is because the majority of my ancestors come from Russia, but, regardless of the reason, I devour most Russo-centric books that I read. As I have read through my goodreads friends year end reviews, I came across The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, a novella based on the life of famed composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Having read Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien earlier thi ...more
Violet wells
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A bit unfair but there were times when I couldn’t help wishing Milan Kundera in his prime had written this and not Julian Barnes. Just for that extra bit of zest and wit and daring of which Kundera is renowned and the rather dry and self-conscious Barnes isn’t.

Not that this isn’t a good novel. It’s very elegantly structured, intelligent and it makes you think a lot about its pervasive themes - courage and conscience and compromise. And it shows not only the enforced humiliations and blanketing
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it

Here I am listening to Shostakovich First Piano Concerto and wondering about Julian Barnes latest novel (?) biography (?). Throughout my reading I was asking myself why had he written this book. I know his interest in classical music. In his The Lemon Table, Vigilance in my favorite short story. It takes place during a concert in which Shostakovich’s music is played. Barnes has also dealt with ‘real people’ in Arthur & George in a highly successful fictional recreation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
Adina (taking a break from literary fiction)
3.5 *

“What could be put up against the noise of time? Only the music which is inside ourselves –the music of our being –which is transformed by some into real music. Which, over the decades, if it is strong and true and pure enough to drown out the noise of time, is transformed into the whisper of history. This is what he held to”

The Noise of Time, Julian Barnes' latest novel transports us in Russia and into the mind of the composer Dmitri Shostakovitch around three conversations with the Soviet
A magnificent reimagining of three pivotal moments in the life of Dmitri Shostakovich, focusing on three occasions when the direction of his life was determined by conversations with the Soviet authorities, or as Barnes describes it, Power.

The first part covers the events of 1936, when the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was condemned after Stalin saw it and disapproved, resulting in the famous Pravda editorial "Muddle instead of Music". In this case the conversation is a first interview with the
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Move over, Martin Amis! It's time for another episode of English author does Russia - after a fictional love affair in the Gulag as described in House of Meetings , this time it is Julian Barnes who steps in and employs a real historical figure as his protagonist: one of the most famous contemporary Russian composers, Dmitri Shostakovich.

The Noise of Time is divided into three parts, each focusing on defining moments from Shostakovich's life during Stalin's reign and after his death. The first o
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This latest work by Julian Barnes looks at the life of the composer Shostakovich. Rather than give us a straightforward, fictional biography, the author takes three key points in his life. He begins in 1936, when the composer finds himself denounced in Stalinist Russia. As critics trip over themselves to find fault with his work, Shostakovich waits – dressed and with his small suitcase packed – for those in Power to take him to the Big House…

Shostakovich was living in a dangerous time and the au
Jul 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
A quiet book of the tough moral choices of a famous composer who has to survive in the controlling atmosphere of the Soviet system over the decades. This channeling of the life of Shostakovich takes a minimalist route of presenting little of his family life, childhood, and emotional life. I was a little disappointed not to get any real window on his creative process or even much detail on his musical interests and development. But through Barnes’ focus on his state of mind at a few seminal turni ...more
“He had also learned about the distruction of the human soul. Well, life is not a walk across the field as the saying goes. A soul could be destroyed in one of three ways: by what others did to you; by what others made you do to yourself; and by voluntarily what you chose to do to yourself.”

Julian Barnes is a master in his field. The Sense of an Ending and Levels of Life are brilliant literary novels. The Noise of Time, however, takes off on a different path. Written about the life of Russian c
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Having read and loved Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad Symphony for the City of the Dead Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson I was up to date on the life and work of Dmitri Shostakovich but still had an interest in reading Julian Barnes's The Noise of Time as a friend recommended it to me purely for it's beautiful prose and sentences.

This book is presented as a short fictional account of the life of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. This for me was a book where nothing much happens and yet everything hap

Unfortunately not as good as I had counted for. I hasten to add there’s nothing really to blame the novel for yet somehow it didn’t entirely work for me. The writing is very good, it’s Julian Barnes after all, the idea is more than interesting, the protagonist, to say the least, very complex and ambigous, the setting and times oppressive and ruining personality, yet something was missing.

It’s a quick reading and I read it, well, four months ago, and to tell the truth, apart from some powerful an
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"A soul could be destroyed in one of three ways: by what others did to you; by what others made you do to yourself; and by what you voluntarily did to yourself. Any single method was sufficient; though if all three were present, the outcome was irresistible."
― Julian Barnes, The Noise of Time


The last Julian Barnes I read was The Sense of an Ending which seemed to float perfectly as a short novel. The prose was as delicate, smooth and perfect as rosette frosting. I'm not sure Nabokov would want t
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-read, uk, russia
Strangely, this book reminded me of the stories my father, who was a policeman, told me about the time he spent in Belarus in the context of his job. After seeing the police system there and talking to people who, from an outside point of view, were assigned to do the same job that he did in Germany, he explained that he became painfully aware of the fact that when a profession is turned into a travesty, it destroys those who chose the job based on their convictions and their wish to live up to ...more
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A Human Genius

Dmitri Shostakovich is a human being. Really. He's a hero at the very same time he's a coward, a steadfast lover and a cad, a musical genius and a hack, a prodigy and a parvenu. He is what he has to be to survive in a society that considers him a tool. And who of us escapes that fate or the personal and professional compromises demanded by it? Nevertheless at least some, like Shostakovich, can be heard above the noise of their time. I recommend listening to the Piano Quintet in G m
On the Landing
It had all begun, very precisely, he told his mind, on the morning of the 28th of January 1936, at Arkhangelsk railway station. No, his mind responded, nothing begins just like that, on a certain date at a certain place. It all began in many places, and at many times, some even before you were born, in foreign countries, and in the minds of others.

And afterwards, whatever might happen next, it would all continue in the same way, in other places, and in the mind of others.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Julian Barnes gives us three riveting episodes in the life and times of Dmitri Shostakovitch. He explores the relationship between the composer and the State. It begins in the 1930s amidst the infamous purges with Shostakovitch waiting and expecting to be taken by agents of the state. His work has been denounced and you can practically smell the fear and paranoia. He is afraid for his family and friends, and his child. He finds himself in a position where he would rather be alive and safe rather ...more
Geza Tatrallyay
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book; Barnes draws you into the soul of Shostakovich, a composer trying to make a living in Stalinist Russia. The encounters with the tyrant and the horrific system are believable, and Shostakovich comes across as an all too human character. The writing is wonderful; this is an enchanting little book I found hard to put down. Kudos to Mr. Barnes.
Ian "Marvin" Graye
The Noise of Opinion

Two other novels came to mind as I read this 184 page work:

* William T Vollmann’s “Europe Central”; and

* John Banville’s “The Untouchable”.

I recall a comment by a member of the Vollmann fanclub pronouncing his book necessarily superior to Barnes’, because it was written by Vollmann and it was under-read by critics, while admitting that he hadn’t read any Barnes at all, let alone this one.

“Europe Central” is a five star achievement, but in retrospect it displays some
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Historical Significance of Art as a Form of Protest.

This short novel enriches with aesthetics of art and music, and in Barnes' take on how Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, one of history's greatest, might have personally handled Stalin's sinister oppression in light of canonical compositions he created under constant fear that the next time his door knocked could well be his death knell.

Julian Barnes' re-imagining of Shostakovich's life under Stalin resonates with ironies of humanity. We es
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't believe Julian Barnes has ever written a better book, and he has written some very fine ones.


There's no way I can review this without it turning into a quotation fest, great swathes of Mr Barnes rather than anything I can trot out. So we'll go for a quintessential selection.
So, he had lived long enough to be dismayed by himself. This was often the way with artists: either they succumbed to vanity, thinking themselves greater than they were, or else to disappointment. Nowadays
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was a Russian pianist and composer of the Soviet period and was regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. In this elegant piece of work, Julian Barnes explores Shostakovich's life and creativity while under the thumb of Soviet dictators.

"Lenin found music depressing.

Stalin thought he understood and appreciated music.

Khrushchev despised music.

Which is the worst for a composer?" thought Dmitri Shostakovich.

"Art Belongs to the People" said V. I. L
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a delight this elegant little gem from Julian Barnes is.

It's not easy to breathe new life into a subject that's been written about so often. But in a compact package, this novel about composer Dmitri Shostakovich provides a fresh glimpse into life in the Soviet Union at the height of Stalin's purges. With wit and humanity, Barnes has captured something essential about the terror, paranoia, and absurdities of that time: "a vast catalogue of little farces adding up to an immense tragedy."

Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
PEACE OF MIND- a state of mind that Dimitri Shostakovich never knew. Was it the result of living under Stalin, or can the same be said of all great artists? It is probably true of most artists but Shostakovich had no chance of peace of mind living during a totalitarian regime that thwarted his genius and artistry.

I loved this book. The writing is superb (does Barnes ever not write superbly)? Barnes expertly describes the torment and tragedy of a great composer not allowed to pursue his talent as
I love what Julian Barnes can do with the facts.
When the Russian composer Shostakovich was denounced in 1936, at the beginning of Stalin’s Great Terror period, he knew he was likely to be “purged”. Everyone dreaded the nocturnal sound of pounding on the door - it had only one meaning. “They always came for you in the middle of the night. And so, rather than be dragged from the apartment in his pyjamas, or forced to dress in front of some contemptuously impassive NKVD man, he would go to bed ful
Roger Brunyate
Music Belongs to Music

In his middle years, when the composer Dmitri Shostakovitch is fulfilling his required function as examiner at the Moscow Conservatoire, he asks a trembling student, "Tell me, whom does art belong to?" Perhaps terrified rather than aided by her examiner's repeated gestures with his head to the banner hanging over the table ("ART BELONGS TO THE PEOPLE—V. I. LENIN"), the girl remains tongue-tied. At the very end of his life, Shostakovitch recognizes that she was right: "Not b
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it
There is an old saying that goes, 'art for art's sake', but in British author Julian Barnes latest novel we see what can happen when art is used for political propaganda. Set in the USSR in three distinct time frames, The Noise Of Time explores the life of composer Dmitri Shostakovich as he goes from a popular conductor to one who's life goes on a downward spiral after falling out of favor with the government of the time and it's tyrant leader, Stalin.

Meticulously researching the musician's life
This wasn’t at all what I looked for and expected in a novel. This was muddle instead of prose.

From the first page, the reader is shocked by deliberate dissonance, by a confused stream of conscience. Snatches of thoughts, the beginnings of a lyrical phrase, are drowned, emerge again, and disappear in a grinding and squealing clamor. To follow this “prose” is most difficult; to remember it, impossible.
Thus it goes, practically throughout the entire novel. The sentences on the page are replaced
TBV (on semi-hiatus)
“Art belongs to everybody and nobody. Art belongs to all time and no time. Art belongs to those who create it and those who savour it. Art no more belongs to the People and the Party than it once belonged to the aristocracy and the patron. Art is the whisper of history, heard above the noise of time. Art does not exist for art’s sake: it exists for people’s sake.”

In a novel which is sharp, witty, ironic, funny, sad, menacing and perceptive, Julian Barnes fleshes out the life of Dmitri Shostakovi
(Nearly 3.5)Art is the whisper of history, heard above the noise of time.” Through a fictionalized biography of the Russian composer Shostakovich, Barnes questions how art can withstand political oppression. Knowing Barnes’s penchant for stylistic experimentation, this was never going to be a straightforward, chronological life story. Instead, as he so often does, he sets up a tripartite structure, focusing on three moments when Shostakovich has a reckoning with Power.

The book is full of terri
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Julian Patrick Barnes is a contemporary English writer of postmodernism in literature. He has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize - Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998), and Arthur & George (2005), and won the prize for The Sense of an Ending (2011). He has written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.

Following an education at the City of London School and

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