February Book of the Month: The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes


About the book

The New York Times described Julian Barnes as 'a literary decathlete'. He is a master of a hybrid form: blending fact with fiction, equally happy writing novels or essays, endlessly inventive and consistently erudite and elegant. 

The Noise of Time, his first full-length work of fiction since the 2011 Booker Prize-winning The Sense of an Ending, is set in 1930s Russia. Living in fear that they will come for him in the night, the composer Shostakovich has begun sleeping outside his apartment door so that when they arrive to take him to the Big House, they will not abduct his wife and daughter too.

Pravda's review has denounced his latest opera as 'a muddle'; it won't be long, surely, before he graduates to 'enemy of the people'. Power has begun to take an interest in him and Power will now hold the balance of his fate. As Shostakovich reflects on his career, his family, and his various mishaps and misdemeanours, the relationship between art and society is uncovered. In the USSR, artists are supposed to be engineers of human souls, critical to the success of the Soviet project. But who engineers the engineers?

Barnes always approaches the big questions - what is art for? How do we love? How do we approach our fear of death? – in an ingenious way. The Noise of Time is a reflection of one man's consciousness amid the terror of authoritarian rule. It perfectly embodies a fractured, unreliable state of mind and the conflict between artistic ambition and the demands of society. Gripping, informative and entertaining, it is a classic Barnes concoction.

What the critics said:

"Undoubtedly one of Barnes's best novels, and a great way to start the literary year." (Sunday Times)

"Densely written, masterfully told tale." (Esquire)

What Mumsnetters said:

'I love Julian Barnes…fiction doesn't really describe what he does best. Barnes combines literary criticism, historical document, self-revelation, philosophy and invention to make a coherent whole. And despite my description making this sound dry and worthy, it is wry, funny, and deeply human.' Retiredgoth2

About the author

Born 19 January 1946, in Leicester, the son of two teachers, JULIAN BARNES is the author of twenty previous books, including The History of the World in 10 1/2 chapters, Flaubert’s Parrot, Metroland, England, England, Arthur and George, The Sense of an Ending and Levels of Life. He has received the Man Booker Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the David Cohen Prize for Literature, and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in France, the Prix Medicis and the Prix Femina; in Austria, the State Prize for European Literature; and in 2004 he was named Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. He lives in London.

Webchat with Julian Barnes

We are honoured and delighted that Julian Barnes will be joining us to answer your questions about The Noise of Time, his previous award-winning novels and his exceptional career on Tuesday 23rd February, 9-10pm. Please feel free to discuss the book on the discussion thread throughout the month and then come and meet Julian on the night, and ask him a question or simply tell him what you thought of the book. It'll be a fascinating chat, and we very much hope you can make it…

Book giveaway

Random House have 50 copies of The Noise of Time to give to Mumsnetters: to claim your copy please fill in your details below. If you're not lucky enough to bag one of those, you can always get a hardback copy here.

This giveaway is sponsored by Random House



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