The Example of Isaac Babel
ISAAC BABEL fits perfectly into the landscape of Soviet literature of the 1920′s. Thematically, his collection of short fiction, Red Cavalry, takes its place alongside the stories of Vsevolod Ivanov, Dmitri Furmanov’s Chapayev, Alexander Fadeyev’s The Rout, and innumerable other works on the civil war. The naturalism of Red Cavalry-its brutal depiction of elemental forces unleashed by the revolution-is not more remarkable or more terrifying than what can be found in Vsevolod Ivanov or Artem Vesely; its style is not more colorful then the bewitching verbal tissue of Andrei Platonov, or the inimitable palette of Mikhail Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don. As for the exotic underworld of Babel’s Odessa Tales and of his play, Sunset, both of which reflect a general interest in criminal life (as well as in subjects related to the borderlands and “aliens,” Jews included), this finds parallels in such works as V. Kaverin’s The End of Khaza, or Leonid Leonov’s The Thief. Even Babel’s notorious silence, his catastrophically low output after Sunset (1928), and the relative weakness of that work compared with his work of the 1920′s, are merely an extreme form of the disease and crisis that afflicted all of Soviet literature at the turn of the decade.
About the Author