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  • Published: 3 January 2017
  • ISBN: 9781784703325
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $19.99

The Noise of Time

A compelling novel about art and power, courage and cowardice from the Booker-winning author of The Sense of An Ending


In May 1937 a man in his early thirties waits by the lift of a Leningrad apartment block. He waits all through the night, expecting to be taken away to the Big House. Any celebrity he has known in the previous decade is no use to him now. And few who are taken to the Big House ever return.

‘Stunning’ Sunday Times

‘A profound meditation on power and the relationship of art and power… It is a masterpiece of sympathetic understanding… I don’t think Barnes has written a finer, more truthful or more profound book’ Scotsman

‘A tour de force by a master novelist at the top of his game’ Daily Express

  • Published: 3 January 2017
  • ISBN: 9781784703325
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes is the author of thirteen novels, including The Sense of an Ending, which won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and Sunday Times bestsellers The Noise of Time and The Only Story. He has also written three books of short stories, four collections of essays and three books of non-fiction, including the Sunday Times number one bestseller Levels of Life and The Man in the Red Coat, which was shortlisted for the 2019 Duff Cooper Prize. In 2017 he was awarded the Légion d'honneur.

Also by Julian Barnes

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Praise for The Noise of Time

[A] densely written, masterfully told tale.

Esquire, Book of the Year

Moving and often genuinely tense.

Reader's Digest

[The Noise of Time is] disturbing, darkly comical and an ideal intellectual palate-cleanser to kick off the new year.

Saga Magazine

A new, short, highly concentrated novel…meditating in brief paragraphs on the art and compromise with power over 50 years in the life of the composer Shostakovich.

David Sexton, Evening Standard

Julian Barnes takes an Orwellian turn for his first novel since winning the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

Irish Examiner

The Noise of Time looks to enthral us with its tale of compromise, cowardice and courage in Stalinist Russia.

World Travel Guide

It is being hailed as his best novel yet.

Charlotte Heathcote, Daily Express

An imagining of Shostakovich’s life, art, power and politics.

Jenny Needham, Northern Echo

One for fans of literary fiction and Barnes too.

Evening Echo

[It is] reflective, smart and eminently readable.


A compelling novel about art and power, courage and cowardice, and the capriciousness of fate…Barnes brilliantly captures the composer’s conflicted state of mind…This book is only 190 pages long, but it packs an extraordinary emotional punch.

Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler

Set to enthral us with its tale of compromise, cowardice and courage… Pick it up as soon as you can.

World Travel Guide

A great novel, Barnes’s masterpiece… Exquisite, intimate detail. He has given us a novel that is powerfully affecting, a condensed masterpiece that traces the lifelong battle of one man’s conscience, one man’s art, with the insupportable exigencies of totalitarianism.

Alex Preston, Observer

A novel of deceptive slenderness... You expect nothing less from a writer soaked in Flaubert.

Duncan White, Daily Telegraph

[Barnes is] a master of the narrative sidestep… Not just a novel about music, but something more like a musical novel… The story itself is structured in three parts that come together like a broken chord. It is a simple but brilliant device, and one that goes right to the heart of this novel.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Times

Julian Barnes’ novel deftly evokes the complexity of Shostakovich’s relationship with Stalin and the power of his oeuvre… Thick with period detail… The book returns us to the music itself, that immense 20th-century oeuvre that contains everything but confirms nothing.

Hedley Twidle, Financial Times

A series of elegant meditations.

Claire Allfree, Metro

Moving and often genuinely tense—as well as richly informative.

James Walton, Readers' Digest

Barnes’s sombre, brilliant new novel opens with a scene like something from a story by ChekhovGleaming with intelligence and literary flair, this elegantly composed fictional meditation offers a fresh gloss on a musical genius’s collisions and collusions with power.

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

A series of elegant insights into the mind of a brilliant artist… Throughout, Barnes offers a surety of touch that few writers can match.

Independent on Sunday

This is a slim novel about the big things: art, fear, Power…history’s farcical, tragic repetitions. It is also quite excellent.

Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

Gripping… An intimately illuminating montage of Shostakovich’s life… Immediately engaging.

James Lasdun, Guardian

[It is] full of playful wit and understatement… A very short book but it contains more to enjoy and chew over than most novels three times its length.

Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Express

[A] sad, self-lacerating and darkly funny hybrid of a novel. The Noise of Time is both a burrowing meditation on an artist’s lifelong relationship with totalitarian power, fear and compromise, and a fascinating fictional biography of one of the 20th century’s greatest composers… Barnes is a master.

Tod Wodicka, The National

But The Noise of Time shares with Leo Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata - another text which has at its centre the tyranny of music and its physiologically devastating potential – the capacity for evocation of music-making that is worthy of the real thing.

Catriona Kelly, Prospect

A brilliant portrait of an artist trying not to sign away his soul.

Caroline Moore, Spectator

At his thought-provoking best… A story about the collision of Art and Power, about human compromise, human cowardice and human courage. It is the work of a master.

Cath Turner, Nudge

A brilliant reflection of one man’s consciousness, amid the fear and terror of authoritarian rule. Completely gripping and informative and entertaining, it is a classic Barnes concoction.


Pulsing with riffs on love, music and honesty both personal and artistic, it depicts a man who knows he’s a coward, even if his scores are courageous… Barnes also captures the farcical side of life in Soviet Russia.

Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday

A tour de force by a master novelist at the top of his game.

Huston Gilmore, Daily Express

A profound meditation on power and the relationship of art and power… It presents a life, and refrains from judgment. It is a masterpiece of sympathetic understanding… I don’t think [Barnes] has written a finer, more truthful or more profound book.

Allan Massie, The Scotsman

Barnes’s prose is thoughtful and elegant.

Eoin McNamee, Irish Times

The skilled novelist here brings alive not just the political turmoil that surrounded Shostakovich, but his love for his wives, his love for his children, a vivid counterpoint of artistic freedom and political oppression – the eloquent conjuring of one glass of vodka clinking against another.

The Economist

A great novel.


Barnes pulls together all the strands of an artlessly diffuse and meticulously imagined portrait of life under tyranny. It is masterfully done.

UK Press Syndication

A distinctive and, as always with Barnes, highly readable marriage of suave execution and chilly, grown-up subject matter.

Keith Miller, Literary Review

With its three-act structure, dramatic tension, lyrical passages and recurring motifs, the novel has an operatic quality. Offering an intimate portrait of the artist and an overview of Russia’s troubled past, it’s a compelling read.

Juanita Coulson, The Lady

You’ll love this.

Anne Sexton, Hot Press

The Noise of Time is a brilliant impersonation, both as a novel and as a portrayal of the "real" historical Shostakovich.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, London Review of Books

A gripping story, a fascinating portrait of a period of history, and a brilliantly in-depth character study… Beautifully written… Philosophically and intellectually enriching.

Winq Magazine

A thoughtful, moving read about integrity, compromise and courage.

Good Housekeeping

Barnes has some striking setpieces in this probing, intellectually robust novel.

Ronan Farren, Irish Independent

The fear, danger and paranoia felt in those times rise memorably from the pages.

Choice Magazine

Barnes stands out, so vivid are his images and so poignant his insights. His works stand among the classics of the postmodern era, and for good reason.

Ben Craik, Upcoming

A marvellous meditation on the Cold War era and particularly the battles of conscience that besiege a man living under tyranny.

Richard Fitzpatrick, Irish Examiner

The tone is intimate and aphoristic, the paragraphs succinct.

David Gutman, Gramophone

A fascinating account of the life of Dimitri Shostakovich… Perceptive, symbolic… The Noise of Time is an essential read, and not only for musicians.

Classical Music

A finely-tuned masterpiece... Barnes' prose is supreme.

Western Morning News

An intimate portrait of a public intellectual living in a totalitarian atmosphere… Immersive… The Noise of Time presents a compelling story in engaging and original prose.

Conor O'Donovan, Headstuff

Kaleidoscopic portrait… Barnes deftly constructs a life history... A masterfully told story of survival. *****

Nick Shave, BBC Music Magazine

Beautifully composed.

Jenny Comita, W Magazine

Without a doubt, Barnes has succeeded the high expectations of the people who waited with bated breath for the release of The Noise of Time. In a work that feels both original and authentic, he encourages us to consider the importance of art, in whatever form, and the influence it can have on us all.

Beth Blakemore, Student Newspaper

The writing in the early pages is magnificentThe reader has the confidence of being in the hands of a master storyteller… Barnes has a good sense of what life was like in the Soviet Union. He captures well the black humor, irony and cynicism.

Orlando Figes, New York Review of Books

Barnes at his best...a poignant fictional recreation of the artistic agonies of the composer Shostakovich.

Sunday Times

A very sensitive account of how art can be in conflict with naked political power.


A book I’d like to tuck myself away for a day to read. It’s short in length but by all accounts big on ideas and power.

Susie Dent, Radio Times Christmas Gift Guide

His Dmitri Shostakovich is completely believable.

Margaret MacMillan, New Statesman, Book of the Year

[A] brilliant study of the relationship between art and an oppressive regime… A compelling depiction of the country’s history and a richly imagined close-up of the artist.

Lady, Book of the Year

A poignant and thoughtful portrait of the persecuted artist.

Brad Davies, i, Book of the Year

[It is] elegant.

Duncan White, Daily Telegraph, Book of the Year

Another Brilliant reinvention by Barnes.

Daily Telegraph, Book of the Year #26

My favourite book of this year is The Noise of Time.

Margaret MacMillan, New Statesman, Book of the Year

His best for ages. It is gripping, outward-looking, generous with plot and atmosphere and far beyond the powers of McEwan, Amis, Ishiguro, Rushidie et al…. This book grabbed me by the nuts like nothing of his since Starting at the Sun.

Giles Coren, The Times, Book of the Year

[A] haunting novel on the agonies of Shostakovitch under Stalin and his successors… I recommended it to a friend who for years was one of the great reviewers at the Washington Post. His reply: "It’s an extraordinary book. It’s a book that makes me wish I were reviewing again."

Alex Russell, Financial Times, Book of the Year

A mini-masterpiece.

Rebecca Rose, Financial Times, Book of the Year

An elegant portrait of Shostakovitch.

Ali Smith, Guardian, Book of the Year

Written with Barnes’ characteristic low-key elegance, the book becomes a meditation on artistic integrity and its limits in a brutal regime

Irish Independent, Book of the Year

An impressive narrative of personal integrity.

G. Van Der Zwaan, Times Higher Education, Book of the Year

As a portrait of the composer and his time this book is a complete success… The Noise of Time is also convincing in the details… A book in which a certain grim humour is never too far away.

Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

[A] gem of a novel.

Mail on Sunday

A compelling read that combines sharp insights, lyrical passages and dramatic tension.


Black humour and retrospective anguish prevail in Julian Barnes’s latest novel.

Lara Enoch, Guardian

A beautifully told story, this is subtle and powerful.

William Leith, Evening Standard

This small novel is an elegant and unflinching account of a life lived under extreme pressure, during Stalin’s Great Terror. Julian Barnes fleshes out the life of the composer Shostakovich whose life is under threat. A powerful story, well-crafted and beautifully written about the humanity and torments of a creative soul… An informative, thought provoking read.

Western Morning News

An immense emotional and intellectual punch.

Sunday Times