TARP No. 2 – ‘Stormy Applause’ by Rostislav Dubinsky

Who? Rostislav Dubinsky, a world-renowned violinist whose group, the Borodin Quartet, played at Stalin’s funeral. Part-time Russian, full-time Jew.

What? An autobiography in which the author meets every famous Russian musician of the time, has a trip to America and tries to avoid being busted for not loving life in the Soviet Union.

When? 1980s, when the guy was old.

How? Anecdote-by-anecdote, with reconstructed dialogue that makes everyone sound like characters in a Tony award-winning one-man Broadway show.

Why? Although Dubinsky’s complaints about life in the Soviet Union rarely wander into political rhetoric, his portrayal of life as a musician employed by a culturally-invasive bureaucratic state is compelling, and his colouring of contemporaries like Shostakovich and Oistrakh adds charm. But, there’s a snag: the prose is cheap and predictable, and the anecdotal gloss makes every retelling seem somewhere short of authentic. If it is not ghostwritten, and if Dubinsky had not begrudged his KGB handlers, he might have made a rather successful hack for a state newspaper.

6 November 2016

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