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Angela Merkel’s take on Julian Barnes’s novel about Shostakovich, The Noise of Time

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, on Julian Barnes’s novel The Noise of Time

“I’ve read a book on Shostakovich, by Julian Barnes, also in connection with a performance of “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk”, which I attended a while ago in Salzburg. The book wasn’t particularly long, so I immersed myself in it for two days. […]

The Noise of Time, by Julian Barnes (Publisher: Random House Canada, May 10 2016, 201pp., hardcover)

“What appealed to me most about this book was that it allowed you to get to know the environment in which Shostakovich’s music was created. It also harked back to a conflict I frequently encountered myself when I was young. Shostakovich lived through different phases of the Soviet Union’s cultural policy and was faced with that question “how honest, how open are you?”. His work had been banned, he wasn’t allowed to have it shown anywhere, he was deprived of his means of expression, effectively.

For these very reasons, I myself had decided pretty early on to become a physicist, because the GDR couldn’t possibly mess with physics. But as a musician, as a composer, your music might get classed as un-cultural (“unkulturell”) and be ostracized. People like this not only couldn’t express themselves freely, but they also had to fear for their lives. Questions like how honest can I afford to be, how strong am I, when do I give in, what am I ready to compromise on, those are questions Shostakovich was faced with a lot. And reading about a life like that made me realize once again what a blessing it is to live in a free country.” – Excerpt from Chancellor Angela Merkel interview in Handelsblatt – Deutschland Live, August 25, 2017.

Mrs. Merkel during the interview. (Source: Nils Bröer for Handelsblatt)

She expresses herself unusually well for a politician, and I share her views. Here’s my review.


Reposted from Julian Barnes’s Facebook page.(Rtrvd. 2017-10-11)