The Complete Works of Isaac Babel

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The Compete Works of Isaac Babel Book Cover The Compete Works of Isaac Babel
Isaac Babel
W. W. Norton & Company

Babel is a masterful teller of short stories. His stories, most of which do not exceed a few pages, speak volumes about the extraordinary times in which he lived. For me, the most interesting aspect of Babel's writing is his ability to convey how the onset of Soviet power changed everything--and yet changed nothing (ie, the cossacks of the Red Army seeking to spread world communist revolution in Poland, and simultaneously reprising past cossack wars and pogroms in the region). Babel lived in a fascinating, uncertain time, and his vivid diaries describe the Red Army's exhilaration as they sweep westward into Poland--seemingly as the vanguard of a world revolution--and their confusion and dejection as the Polish pans push them back.

This book was too intense and too homogeneous for me to read all at once: many of Babel's stories feature the same themes (chiefly Jewish life and red cavalry) and after a few hundred pages a definite sense of deja vu sets in as Babel reworks various characters, scenes, etc. Nonetheless, a fantastic book to read in smaller chunks.


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