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Red Cavalry Paperback – April 17, 2003
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“Marvelously subtle, tragic, and often comic commentaries on the desecration of revolutionary activity.” (James Wood - The New Republic)
“From the very first story, Red Cavalry opens like a cannon shot. In glorious, expressionist description, a cavalry division has forded the Zbrucz River at night…Amid beauty, amid courage and even warmth that are often overwhelming, there are butchery and murder, acts that can never be forgiven, only forgotten, and Babel does not let you forget.” (James Salter - Los Angeles Times Book Review)
About the Author
Nathalie Babel, his daughter, edited two other books of Babel's writing and is the author of Hugo and Dostoevsky.
Peter Constantine's most recent translations are Sophocles’ Theban Trilogy, The Essential Writings of Machiavelli, and The Bird is a Raven by Benjamin Lebert, which was awarded the Helen und Kurt Wolff Translation Prize. He was awarded the PEN Translation Prize for Six Early Stories by Thomas Mann, and the National Translation Award for The Undiscovered Chekhov: Thirty-Eight New Stories. His translation of the complete works of Isaac Babel received the Koret Jewish Literature Award and a National Jewish Book Award citation. He has recently translated Gogol’s Taras Bulba, Tolstoy’s The Cossacks, and Voltaire’s Candide for Modern Library. He was one of the editors for A Century of Greek Poetry: 1900-2000, and is a senior editor at Conjunctions.
Michael Dirda, who won a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism at the Washington Post Book World, is the author of An Open Book, Bound to Please, and Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Top Customer Reviews
I believe this work is important because it gives a good look at the early Soviet psyche. This is like seeing a teenage thug before he becomes the gangster.
Read and savor. If you consider yourself a reader but haven't read Babel---start here.
Chris Reich, TeachU.com
The collection follows the exploits of a Cossack cavalry unit in its fight against the Poles. Although war features heavily in the stories, it is merely the focal point of the action. Babel takes characters from diverse backgrounds, experiences, political and religious stances and shades, and gives them a voice in his tales.
It is no wonder that Babel did not survive Stalin. A mind and creatively so vast and encompassing could never fit into an ideology no matter how broadly defined.
I found the read fairly quick read as the writer is a very gifted writer and this is a good translation. The short (sometimes very short) individual stories lend itself to part time reading or reading while you wait say in a doctor's office. The book is very thoughtful and thought provoking.
And there is much to savor here. For Babel was one of the finest writers of the Soviet era. Unfortunately, like Mandelstam, Bulgakov and far too many others, his vast talent was sent to an early grave by murderers who fashioned themselves as protectors of the common good.
Babel was a literary chameleon – able to vividly capture the voices and characters he met during the brutal years of the Polish-Soviet War (1919-21), where nations barely born were fighting over borders soon to be forgotten. The stories here are gory and profane, funny and disturbing, filled with the blood, anguish and up-close horrors of one of the last wars in Europe fought with sabers and horses. But there is also a taste of magical realism here. Roads die and villages bleed, the world itself seems to moan and suffer from the carnage wrought on its fertile soil.
No one is spared Babel’s goring and, more than anything, <em>Red Cavalry</em> is an indictment of the banality of armed conflict through the voices of commissars and idealists, revolutionaries and soldiers alike. It should be required reading in every high school, in every nation where people still think wars are worth fighting.
As reviewed in Russian Life magazine.
Thanks to Babel and translator Boris Dralyuk there is some fine writing:
‘”Lenin hits it straight away, like a hen pecking at a grain.”
‘That’s what Surovkov, platoon commander of the staff squadron, said about Lenin, and then we went to sleep in the hayloft. There were six of us, huddling together for warmth, our legs tangled, under a roof full of holes that let in the stars. I had dreams – dreamt of women – and only my heart, crimson with murder, creaked and bled.’
The murder Babel has on his conscience is of an old woman’s goose.
One of my interests is in the use of armored trains in war, the ‘Russian’ Civil Wars in particular. Babel doesn’t write much of ‘the agitprop (agitation and propaganda) train of the First Cavalry Army’ to which he was attached, but we do learn that it was ‘equipped with a ‘stubborn[ly] running printing press’. Now there’s a revelation!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love Isaac Babel and Russian Literature in general, but this is a great collection of stories from a primary source who participated in the Russian Civil War in a way you would... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Spencer Williams
Excellent vignettes of Russian Civil War, some humerous, some savage. This recounts the reality of one of the most brutal "forgotten" wars of the 20th century from a... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Van E. Langley
One does not to be a Russian History aficionado tone enthralled by this remarkable little volume. The despair, misery, cruelty and utter futility of war is palpable. Read morePublished 11 months ago by D. A. Fisher
During the Polish-Soviet War of 1920-1921, Isaac Babel was attached to the Red Army Cavalry that fought in Southern Poland. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Grey Wolffe