Dimitri Schostakowitsch, 1958

In diesem Jahr reiste Schostakowitsch nach Oxford, um am 26. Juni ein Ehrendoktorat entgegen zu nehmen. Betreut wurde er vor Ort von Isaiah Berlin, der in einem Brief an seinen Freund Rowland Burdon-Miller darüber berichtet. Dieser Brief ist in dem eben erschienenen neuen Briefband enthalten und wurde in der New York Review of Books abgedruckt.

Berlins Brief zeigt einen völlig eingeschüchterten Menschen:

[…] and finally the composer himself appeared, small, shy, like a chemist from Canada (Western States), terribly nervous, with a twitch playing in his face almost perpetually—I have never seen anyone so frightened and crushed in all my life […]

But throughout the visit he looked like a man who had passed most of his life in some dark forbidding place under the supervision of jailers of some sort, and whenever the slightest reference was made to contemporary events or contemporary personalities, the old painful spasm would pass over his face, and his face would assume a haunted, even persecuted expression and he would fall into a kind of terrified silence. It was depressing and very harrowing, and made one like him and pity him a great deal. […]

At 10:00 AM the guardians were to call for him, but they were late. He got into a state of appalling nervous panic, made me ring the Mitre Hotel three times, began to wring his hands, wondered what would happen if he arrived late at the Embassy, how he would explain it, wondered whether his guardians had somehow abandoned him, or some mistake had been made for which he would be blamed, and got into an appalling neurotic state. However, they appeared, explained they were late because they had been buying guides to Oxfordshire at Blackwells […]

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