- Hardcover: 1076 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (November 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393048462
- ISBN-13: 978-0393048469
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Complete Works of Isaac Babel Hardcover – November, 2001
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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
From Library Journal
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.
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The writing? Gritty and gut wrenching. And unlike the western modernists, easy to understand. No interpretation required. Straight gut punches.
I highly recommend!
The biographical information provided by his daughter enhances the reading pleasure as well as draws attention to the politics that contributed to self-censorship and eventual assassination from Stalin's henchmen.
Babel is the Checkov and the Turgenev of his time: classic Russian Short Fiction at its most beautiful.
The only drawback to this extensive collection is its extensiveness. Babel's longer works and plays lack some of the focus and integrity of his short stories. Luckily the short stories make up the bulk of the book.
If you can afford it buy the hardcover. It comes in a protective box and I guarantee this is a collection you will want to preserve and cherish forever.