The Noise of Time (Paperback)
  • The Noise of Time (Paperback)

The Noise of Time (Paperback)

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Paperback Published: 05/01/2017
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ALL HE KNEW was that this was the worst time

He had been standing by the lift for three hours. He was on his fifth cigarette, and his mind was skittering.

Faces, names, memories. Cut peat weighing down his hand. Fields of sunflowers. The smell of carnation oil…

The faces and names of the dead, too.

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.

So begins Julian Barnes' first novel since his Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending. A story about the collision of art and power, about human compromise, human cowardice and human courage,

Justifiably described as Barnes’ masterpiece, The Noise of Time is part fictionalised biography and displays again Barnes’s seemingly effortless ability to make the personal universal and to do so with brevity, precision and conscience. Encountering the same man at three stages in his life, the power and impact of the individual takes on a larger significance, widened into a contemplation of personal responsibility and the limits of human endurance under the influence of power.

It is a book in dialogue; with the past, with the legacy of totalitarianism and more directly with Frank Kermode’s 1967 work of the same name and with the book both works originate from, the original Noise of Time, memoirs that contain an account of a life of tragic genius, that of Dmitri Shostakovich.

The Noise of Time is the work of a true master and a book that has lasting resonance for the age we find ourselves in and how we consider our own role within it.

‘Comes close to being not just a novel about music, but something more like a musical novel.’ - The Times

‘Barnes offers a surety of touch that few writers can match’ – Independent

It’s an unusual author who can claim to have written a highly praised novel of literary merit partly narrated by a woodworm but Julian Barnes’s diverse output is anything but conventional. His novels range from his debut, the linear coming-of-age story Metroland, to more experimental novels including his breakthrough success Flaubert’s Parrot, A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, the three-person love triangle explored in Talking it Over and Love Etc. and more recent meditations on temporality: The Sense of an Ending (for which he won the 2011 Booker Prize) and The Noise of Time.

Read about the temporal art of Julian Barnes's The Noise of Time on the Waterstones blog.

Publisher: Vintage Publishing
ISBN: 9781784703325

An Evening with Julian Barnes

An Evening with Julian Barnes

London - Tottenham Court Road
Wednesday 1st February 19:00

Booker prize-winning author Julian Barnes joins writer and journalist Rachel Cooke to discuss The Noise of Time - a fictional account of the life of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich; a standout novel of 2016. The paperback release has been selected as Waterstones January Book of the Month and has been described as Julian Barnes’ greatest novel.

The Birmingham Book Club

The Birmingham Book Club

Thursday 23rd February 18:00

Join us for the second meeting of the Birmingham Book Club. We will be discussing The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes and picking next month's book. This is a free event and does not require advanced booking.


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“A Barnes Newbie”

So I've not read Julian Barnes before and am not into super-heavy literary types. I tried this one out as Book of the Month for January and while it's out of my comfort genre it was an enjoyable read! His... More

Paperback edition
3rd January 2017
Helpful? Upvote 4


I inhaled this in one sitting. The writing is everything you'd expect from Julian Barnes - expressive and vivid but with masterly control. Not a word is wasted and no sentence seems out of place.

Anyone who read... More

Paperback edition
15th December 2016
Helpful? Upvote 4
Georgie Matthews at Windsor

“Music & Communism: If words have been betrayed, is there still hope for music?”

I was already a fan of Julian Barnes before I read this book. But I was familiar with his more overtly humourous titles - "Flaubert's Parrot" and "A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters".... More

Paperback edition
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