Letter of the Month

Dictators and their fear of the arts

Shostakovich is not the only artist who has had to deal with a dictator, but Angus McPherson’s article ( A Fourth to be Reckoned With , August Limelight) highlights the problems, and provided great background when I heard his Symphony No 4 played by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. The arts are often a dangerous field under dictatorships, but at least with music there could be some debate about the meaning of the composition. Writers are another matter. Dostoevsky joined a progressive literary discussion group, which opposed autocracy and serfdom, and was arrested on the orders of the Czar. He was subjected to a mock execution and five years in prison, but later managed to write Crime and Punishmentand The Brothers Karamazov. If writers expressed what Shostakovich is saying in his Symphony No 4, they would not survive under a dictator, as the music...

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