Magazine June 27, 2016, Issue

A Composer in the Shadow of the Commissars

The Noise of Time: A Novel, by Julian Barnes (Knopf, 224 pp., $25.95)

Maybe there’s no point anymore in lamenting the West’s failure to understand “the Russian soul.” That’s the suspicion with which I emerge from Julian Barnes’s novel — or set of vignettes — about Dmitri Shostakovich. Are our minds, however impressed by Russian artistry, unable to penetrate Russian reasoning and suffering — and so unable really to penetrate the artistry either?

Shostakovich was a middle-class musical prodigy much hampered by the Russian Revolution, and later a conspicuously rising composer who may have once escaped the Great Terror by accident, when his interrogator was himself purged and disappeared over a weekend. Even in

Sarah Ruden’s most recent books are the extensively revised second edition of her Aeneid translation and her new translation of the Gospels.

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


Politics & Policy

The Week

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Secret Agent Woman

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Politics & Policy


ALTAR The altar of the great cathedral brings indoors something of the majesty of the open sky, as the architect lifts the eyes of all from the altar to the wide beauty and precision of the ...
Politics & Policy


Spiritual Self-Interest In the Week (April 11), a comparison between King David and Donald Trump was made. In describing David’s braveness, it was written: “As a boy, David fought his way ...


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