• Book Review: The Noise of Time


Julian Barnes returns, after winning the Man Booker prize for The Sense of an Ending (2011), with a book set in the late 1930s. The protagonist in The Noise of Time is a man aged thirty-something that sees no personal value in celebrities any longer, and yet he wants to board a lift that is going to take him to the Big House. The House seems to swallow up most of these celebrities, but aside from that gripping story-within-a-story, there is also a lot about Art, about Power, about compromising, about the act of cowardice and about the act of bravery. Storytelling is mastered by the British author in his latest book, as he borrows once more from the memoirs of a Russian poet, Osip Mandelstam (just the title of the book) to write about an artist's survival, during the practice of oppression in the Soviet empire. Based on Dmitri Shostakovich, a prominent Russian pianist and composer, the book talks about one individual's life, making it a comprehensive read, in that way because it's not particularly pleasing to learn an awful lot about one character and then see it get completely lost within the story, in the end.

Julian barely began expressing himself with creativity in his last book so it makes for immersive reading to have a third person account of another human being, one who wants to be removed and placed into the House; the artist carries with him the bare essentials of cigarettes, tooth powder and underwear to the location. As you learn from Italian masterstrokes, how to jump from one decade to another for another life, in the meantime making it look seamless, you also read more about this man and how tragic his life had become because of the Soviet. Stalin renounced his last piece of work, personally, as being a twitchy and psychopathic rendition of music composition. It was described as being not of a political nature, ambiguous and catering to the creative class that have a degenerated understanding of what music is all about, as well. The composer waits for trial for his work, that will lead to exile from Russia's borders, preceded by interrogation by the NKVD (the Soviet Union's secret police). As the scene kind of blacks out, you next meet him in the United States, participating in propaganda, in the middle of which Stalin decides to pardon him somewhat, when he discovers a patriotic piece by the composer.

But the composer, unknown to Stalin or the NKVD, does this halfheartedly. He begins to mutter under his breath a lot and wishes that people, his audience, understand that he is being made to do all of this, nothing else. But he gets humiliated in the process as he his ordered by a member of the CIA amongst his audience to read out loud the point of views of his prosecutor, a man who insulted the composer's work by calling it a separate gas chamber and a noisy interruption. A hunchback immersed in spiritual morality, the composer is torn apart completely in the last stages of his life and he pronounces him to be so. He says that he has no spirit left in his body anymore to fight with the Soviets and so slices his integrity by joining the party, as the leader of the music composition department. His devotion to his craft calls on him to fight with Power, to challenge it, to give it his blood to live, because Power in the Soviet regime will not allow him to live at all, if truth is let out. The composer deteriorates into a shriveled state, for all of this, where even his illness does not grant him martyrdom, his work is never enshrined, and his aspirations never part from his grave. The composer, tries with all his might but does not succeed, and instead ends up slicing his own life into little pieces - a very mesmerizing read on how the oppressed fight but lose to a totalitarian regime!

This review was written by Fashion Girl

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