Arguably the best book of short stories published in 2001, The Complete Works of Isaac Babel, expertly translated by Peter Constantine, should affirm Babel's place among the top Russian short story writers. Like Chekhov, Isaac Babel primarily wrote odd, tightly wrung little stories in which he displays a variety of convincing styles and tones, with each piece having an immediacy and weight that exceeds its brevity.
Babel's writing life lasted approximately 20 years. (He was executed by Stalin after a few military subjects unflatteringly portrayed in his "Red Cavalry" stories gained positions of influence.) His most notable stories depict the Russian civil war and Jewish soldiers, his childhood, and Jewish thugs in his native Odessa. Often journalistic in style, his stories provided gripping war accounts to Russians eager for news from the front, as in this passage from "The Church in Novograd":
We drank rum, waiting for the military commissar, but he still hadn't come back from the headquarters. Romuald had collapsed in a corner and fallen asleep. He slept and quivered, while beyond the window an alley seeped into the garden beneath the black passion of the sky. Thirsting roses swayed in the darkness. Green lightning bolts blazed over the cupolas. A naked corpse lay on the embankment. And the rays of the moon streamed through the dead legs that are pointing upward. So this is Poland...This collection is a delight for its organization: the stories are grouped by periods, feature introductions, and include helpful maps. The preface and afterward by his daughter and editor, Nathalie Babel, are insightful. Also included are two plays, several screenplays, a chronology, and an introduction by Cynthia Ozick. The Complete Works of Isaac Babel should be a welcome addition to readers of literature everywhere. --Michael Ferch
One of the great Russian writers of the 20th century, Babel (1894-1941) was arrested in 1939 and later executed by Stalin's regime. In 1954, his work was largely republished, but much of his correspondence, drafts, and manuscripts was confiscated when he was arrested and has never resurfaced. Now, for the first time, all of Babel's surviving work has been assembled into one volume. Readers new to Babel will discover his "Red Cavalry" stories, plays, diaries, screenplays, and short stories. In addition to an introduction by Cynthia Ozick, the book is graced with an excellent preface and afterword by Babel's daughter, who also edited the volume. She provides recently uncovered information about her father's arrest and execution as well as personal remembrances. With the publication of this volume of Babel's work, it is hoped that a full-scale biography will follow. Essential for literature collections.
- Ron Ratliff, Kansas State Univ., Manhattan
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
It is in quite good condition and helps me with my course a lot. Of course, Babel is a good writer.Published 24 months ago by Carissa Yao
Isaac Babel's works should be read and re-read and re-re-read. At his best, Babel can write such short, simple-appearing sentences that contain a complexity of thoughts that stuns. Read morePublished on March 5, 2013 by Keith J. Phillips
If you have not read Babel, you should. This is a beautiful addition to your library and, as advertised, contains the complete works. Why would you want the complete works? Read morePublished on November 6, 2012 by Chris Reich
The Complete Works of Isaac Babel covers the entire range of his writing from the earliest pieces, through his stories of Odessa gangsters and the Red Cavalry to diaries,... Read morePublished on July 9, 2012 by Gervase T. M. Shorter
I've always been a fan of Babel's Red Cavalry stories, but was surprised and delighted to read his other works. Read morePublished on March 25, 2011 by E.J. Kaye
I was delighted to discover this book. Although I was a literature major (and teacher) and have read lots of Russion lit, I had never heard of Isaac Babel. His story is amazing. Read morePublished on October 14, 2010 by Mimi
Vignettes on life in the Red Calvalry during the days when the Russian Revolution was still 'The Russian Experiment' rather than the disaster it became, and of life in Odessa where... Read morePublished on October 31, 2008 by An admirer of Saul