Purity vs Dark Brown suppression – The Noise of Time

I somewhat randomly bought the The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes. Barnes is one of the writers on my ‘read anything they write’ list (another one is Haruki Murakami, yet another Douglas Coupland).

So I did buy the book for its main topic – a fictionalised biography of Dmitri Shostakovich. Actually, as I had not read any review of the book nor its cover, it took me a couple of pages to reach the point where I realised this was about Shostakovich. Or probably more precisely, about his moral struggle with the Soviet government.

The beginning breathes the dark brown stifling atmosphere of Kafka’s The Trial. Desperate, helpless, surrendering to untouchable power of bureaucratics.

Barnes writes how Shostakovich becomes famous as a composer but is not able to enjoy his success. He gets to visit the United States, but as a total puppet of the USSR politics. He holds speeches drenched with political statements, but including nothing of his own vision. The composer seems to half realise what he is doing, and seems to justify it for his family. So the story turns to Shostakovich courage, or lack thereof, his cowardness, betrayal, moral shame.

Barnes describes wonderfully how the oppression permeates every hole in the life of Shostakovich. It makes me wonder how he was still able to write such wonderful music.

Who does art belong to? The people? The state? The ‘big goal’?

Music in the USSR is played ‘as meant by the artist’, or ‘ strategic’ – meaning in accordance with the norms of socialist art.

But in music there is an purity. Something that can not be washed away by norms, politics, ethics, violence. A purity that stands the Noise of Time. Eternal. Context free. An undebatable truth.

And this purity in music probably explains how Shostakovich was able to continue to make his wonderful music, while being oppressed by this totalitarian regime.

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163 Reasons To Love Reading Little BIG Things (ok, a few less)

Of course Tom Peters doesn’t need an introduction. He wrote In Search of Excellence with Bob Waterman, a monumental book from 1982 reporting on the key characteristics of
successful companies. I would summarize it as: well-run businesses don’t bullshit around.

In 2010 Tom Peters gathered his thoughts in 163 categorized topics, The Little BIG Things. I reread all the Things recently. It has been a fun read again, and here’s a list of the things I like so much about this book.

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More than nothing learned from Tim Kreider’s We Learned nothing

Not sure where I dug up the reference to Tim Kreider’s We Learn Nothing, but I am sure it was a reference from a self help book.cover_welearnnothing_pb-199x300

So when I began with this book I was quite confused. It was like taking a sip coffee, expecting the bitterness of a black coffee but testing the sweet creamy flavor from the choice of you friend opposite you with your cup and a disgusted frown on his forehead after tasting yours.

So this is not a self-help book. They are essays about the strangeness in Tim Kreider’s life. Just to mention a few:

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