純粹因為作者而選的書(本來想找The Sense of an Ending但因為電影還在上畫所以借不到)，事先完全不知道內容，卻真是事有湊巧－－剛剛看了一次「馬克白」的舞台演出，正在追看的日劇是「四重奏」，再加上「回歸悲劇」二十周年，正是適合看作曲家Shostakovich在共產政權下如何勇敢存活。
What could be put up against the noise of time? Only that music which is inside ourselves –the music of our being – which is transformed by some into real music.
Which, over the decades, if it is strong and true and pure enough to drown out the noise of time, is transformed into the whisper of history. This was what Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich held to.
And so, he was a coward. And so, he would put all his remaining courage into his music, and his cowardice into his life.
But it was not easy being a coward. He knew he must protect those closest around him.
Being a hero was much easier than being a coward. To be a hero, you only had to be brave for a moment – when you took out the gun, threw the bomb, pressed the detonator, did away with the tyrant, and with yourself as well. But to be a coward was to embark on a career that lasted a lifetime. You couldn’t ever relax. Being a coward required pertinacity, persistence, a refusal to change – which made it, in a way, a kind of courage.
He admired those who stood up and spoke truth to Power. He admired their bravery and their moral integrity. And sometimes he envied them; but it was complicated, because part of what he envied them was their death, their being put out of the agony of living
He too had felt the vanity of transitory courage.
But these heroes, these martyrs, whose death often gave a double satisfaction – to the tyrant who ordered it, and to watching nations who wished to sympathise and yet feel superior – they did not die alone. Many around them would be destroyed as a result of their heroism. And therefore it was not simple, even when it was clear.
And of course, the intransigent logic ran in the opposite direction as well. If you saved yourself, you might also save those around you, those you loved. And since you would do anything in the world to save those you loved, you did anything in the world to save yourself. And because there was no choice, equally there was no possibility of avoiding moral corruption.
And then, in the spring of 1937, he had his First Conversation with Power. Of course, he had talked to Power before, or Power had talked to him: officials, bureaucrats, politicians, coming with suggestions, proposals, ultimata. Power had talked to him through newspapers, publicly, and had whispered in his ear, privately. Power had humiliated him, taken away his livelihood, ordered him to repent. Power had told him how it wanted him to work, how it wanted him to live. Power knew only facts, and its language consisted of phrases and euphemisms designed either to publicize or to conceal those facts. Lenin found music depressing. Stalin thought he understood and appreciated music. Khrushchev despised music.
Power had always been more interested in the word than the note: writers, not composers, had been proclaimed the engineers of human souls. Writers were condemned on page one of Pravda, composers on page three. Two pages apart.
The engineers of human souls: a chilly, mechanistic phrase. And yet … what was the artist’s business with, if not the human soul? Unless an artist wanted to be merely decorative, or merely a lapdog of the rich and powerful.
If you are declared an enemy of the state, as he had once been, all those around you are tarnished and infected. Your family and friends, of course. But even a conductor who plays, or has played, or suggests playing, a work of yours; the members of a string quartet; the concert hall, be it ever so tiny, that stages your work; the very audience. How often, over the course of his career, had conductors and soloists suddenly become unavailable at the last minute?
But since they murdered Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, he had not had an opera produced; nor finished any he had begun.
But surely, Dmitri Dmitrievich, you could write in the secrecy of your apartment; you could circulate your music; it could be played among friends; it could be smuggled out to the West like the manuscripts of poets and novelists? Yes, thank you, an excellent idea: new music of his, banned in Russia, played in the West. Could they imagine what a target that would make of him? It would be perfect proof that he was seeking to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union. But you could still write music? Yes, he could still write unperformed and unperformable music. But music is intended to be heard in the period when it is written. Music is not like Chinese eggs: it does not improve by being kept underground for years and years.
Those who knew him, knew him. Those who had ears could hear his music. But how did he seem to those who didn’t know him, to the young who sought to understand the way the world worked?
How could they not judge him? And how would he now appear to his younger self, standing by the roadside as a haunted face in an official car swept past?
He found himself reflecting on questions of honesty. Personal honesty, artistic honesty. How they were connected, if indeed they were. And how much of this virtue anyone had, and how long that store would last.
It had been a betrayal. He had betrayed Stravinsky, and in doing so, he had betrayed music.
He had told friends that if ever he repudiated Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, they were to conclude that he had run out of honesty. What did he value? Music, his family, love. Love, his family, music. The order of importance was liable to change. Could irony protect his music? In so far as music remained a secret language which allowed you to smuggle things past the wrong ears.
He had always believed that love, as a force of nature, was indestructible; and that, when threatened, it could be protected, blanketed, swaddled in irony. Now he was less convinced. Tyranny had become so expert at destroying that why should it not destroy love as well, intentionally or not? Tyranny demanded that you love the Party, the State, the Great Leader and Helmsman, the People. But individual love – bourgeois and particularist – distracted from such grand, noble, meaningless, unthinking ‘loves’. And in these times, people were always in danger of becoming less than fully themselves. If you terrorised them enough, they became something else, something diminished and reduced: mere techniques for survival. And so, it was not just an anxiety, but often a brute fear that he experienced: the fear that love’s last days had come.
We know, Comrade Shostakovich, that you are well capable of writing music which pleases the masses. So why do you persist with your formalist quacks and grunts which the smug bourgeoisie who still command the concert halls merely pretend to admire?
Let Power have the words, because words cannot stain music. Music escapes from words: that is its purpose, and its majesty.
The Fifth Symphony’s success was instant and universal.
They called his Fifth ‘an optimistic tragedy’.
Those who did not know him, and who followed music only from a distance, probably imagined that the trauma of 1936 now lay well in the past. He had committed a great fault in writing Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and Power had properly castigated him. Repentant, he had composed a Soviet artist’s creative reply to just criticism. Then, during the Great Patriotic War, he had written his Seventh Symphony, whose message of anti-Fascism had resounded across the world. And so, he had achieved forgiveness.
But those who understood how religion – and therefore Power – operated would have known better. The sinner might have been rehabilitated, but this did not mean that the sin itself had been expunged from the face of the earth; far from it. If the country’s most famous composer could fall into error, how pernicious must that error be, and how dangerous to others. So the sin must be named, and reiterated, and its consequences eternally warned against.
All he knew was that this was the worst time of all. The worst time was not the same as the most dangerous time. Because the most dangerous time was not the time when you were most in danger. This was something he hadn’t understood before.
When he was composing, he always knew exactly what to do; he made the right decisions about what the music – his music – required.
You cannot lie in music. Music – good music, great music – had a hard, irreducible purity to it. It might be bitter and despairing and pessimistic, but it could never be cynical.
But when a composer is bitter, or in despair, or pessimistic, that still means he believes in something.
Art belongs to everybody and nobody. Art belongs to all time and no time. Art belongs to those who create it and those who savour it. Art no more belongs to the People and the Party than it once belonged to the aristocracy and the patron. Art is the whisper of history, heard above the noise of time. Art does not exist for art’s sake: it exists for people’s sake. But which people, and who defines them? He always thought of his own art as anti-aristocratic. Did he write, as his detractors maintained, for a bourgeois cosmopolitan elite? No. Did he write, as his detractors wanted him to, He wrote music for those who best appreciated the music he wrote, regardless of social origin. He wrote music for the ears that could hear. And he knew, therefore, that all true definitions of art are circular, and all untrue definitions of art ascribe to it a specific function.
They wanted the artist to be a gladiator, publicly fighting wild beasts, his blood staining the sand.
They demanded ‘an optimistic Shostakovich’.
But it was an artist’s nature to be pessimistic and neurotic. So, they wanted you not to be an artist. But they already had so many artists who were not artists!
Like all Russians, he loved Shakespeare, and knew him well from Pasternak’s translations.
How was it possible not to love Shakespeare? Shakespeare, after all, had loved music. His plays were full of it, even the tragedies. So of course tyrants hated music, however strenuously they pretended to love it. Although they hated poetry more. But, even more than poetry, tyrants hated and feared the theatre. Shakespeare held a mirror up to nature, and who could bear to see their own reflection? So Hamlet was banned for a long time; Stalin loathed the play almost as much as he loathed Macbeth.
That’s what they required: in Pasternak’s words, ‘Total death, seriously.’ Well, he would try to disappoint such idealists for as long as possible.
Everyone had always wanted more from him than he was able to give. Yet all he had ever wanted to give them was music.
But he was not a normal man; and as they showered him with honours, they also stuffed him with vegetables.. It had got to the point where he despised being the person he was, on an almost daily basis. He should have died years ago.
Tanya, one of his wife, had told him, tenderly, that she had been attracted to him because he was pure and open. Not that he felt pure and open. They sounded like words designed to keep him in a box.
He wanted to be left alone with music and his family and his friends: the simplest of desires.
The war would end, no doubt – unless it never did. Fear would continue, and unwarranted death, and poverty and filth – perhaps they too would continue forever, who could tell. And yet a triad put together by three not very clean vodka glasses and their contents was a sound that rang clear of the noise of time, and would outlive everyone and everything. And perhaps, finally, this was all that mattered.