Thursday, September 8, 2016

Review: "The Noise of Time" by Julian Barnes

The Noise of Time, the new novel by Booker Prize-winning author Julian Barnes reminded me of a lot of other books while reading throughout. Luckily, that is a positive assessment of this swift hypnotic novel about a composer who gives up his dignity, creativity and happiness for a chance of survival under Stalin’s regime. There is very little dialogue in the novel, and most of the text is third person narration inside the mind of a man with little else but regret and shame, and it is compelling as hell. The only other book by Julian Barnes I have read is Flaubert’s Parrots, and I don’t recall that book being this interesting. If the book has any weaknesses, it is the other characters besides our protagonist, all of whom seem very paper-thin and act as simple cyphers for whatever feeling the main character finds himself in. other than that, this book is great. It is based on a Russian composer named Dmitri Shostakovich, and follows him over three separate years, all of which are leap years, as he deals with the decisions he has made. In the first year, 1936, Stalin witnesses one of his operas, and his work his denounced and he is taken in for an interrogation. Through a stroke of luck, his interrogator is executed and his life is spared by bending to the will of the state and changing his musical style. It happens again in 1948, and denouncing the work of another saves him. And in 1960, he joins the communist party. All through this, we see the pains of regret as his friends are killed, the love of his life dies, and he tries to fill the void with unfit lovers and lifeless art. The motif of a wounded vet begging for money in a train station is confusing when it opens the book, but it becomes clearer what it symbolizes when the scene resumes near the end. A good, but not great book about the power of the past and its stranglehold on the future. 
Rating: 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment