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ایساک بابل روایتگر دوره ای پر آشوب از تاریخ یکی از مهمترین تمدنهای جهان است کار او را می توان بازآفرینی صریح و بی رحمانۀ دنیایی دستخوش جنگ و آشوب دانست داستنهایش اغلب وقایع نامۀ مصیبت و فاجعه اند، ولی فضایی رنگین، با نشاط و سرشار از طنز دارند – با حال و هوایی متفاوت که زندگی، تر و تازه و چالاک، در آن جاری استبابل در دوره ای پر آشوب ساکن این جهان بوده، زمانۀ انقلابی خلقی با آرمانی دست نیافتنی که در شتابِ ثانیه هایش مجالی برای انسان بودن نیست او که خود به نوعی پروردۀ این انقلاب است، با نگاهی ژرف بین لحظه های خوشبختیِ گریخته از کفِ انسانها را ثبت می کند، شادیهای کوچک زندگی را در میانۀ بلوا می بیند، و در روند کار خود رفته رفته به وجدان بیدار جامعه ای بدل می شود که در چرخۀ پر شتابِ حوادث انسانها را از یاد برده است راز ماندگاریِ داستانهای بابل همین نگاه ژرف او به انسان است


10 thoughts on “The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel

  1. says:

    This volume of translated stories consists of the cycle Red Cavalry and at least some of his Odessa Stories Isaac Babel by origin a bookish Odessa Jew a literary man rode with the largely illiterate and entirely anti Semitic Cossack Red Cavalry into Poland One hundred years ago give or take as the Russian revolution expanded and came into full bloom the first world war came in Eastern Europe not uite to an end but sputtered into confusion at this point an army of red cavalry galloped westwards presumably with the intention of reaching Germany and encouraging world wide revolution Unfortunately this simple plan reuired fighting a war in Poland and across Ukraine en route and it is this which unfolds in Babel's storiesview spoiler and in case you are wondering how this all turned out you may have noticed what didn't happen in the world in 19191920 hide spoiler


  2. says:

    What I learned and what I continue to learn from Isaac Babel is nothing less than how to write When I first found Guy De Maupassant languishing in an anthology held over from my college years I was in the first place captivated In the second infuriated How could I have attended one of the top twenty English programs in the country and never once been introduced to Isaac Babel? It was enough to make me want to demand a tuition refund Babel was executed in 1940 by Stalin's regime and his stories once celebrated by the Russian people were nearly lostWhat is it about Babel that I admire to the point of declaring him the author I most esteem? Even above my beloved Dostoevsky? Perhaps a part of it is his mastery of the short story format A format that I have never really enjoyed nor been able to utilize in any effective way His prose is precise Many of his stories are fewer than ten pages His style is simple and yet infused with an originality that scintillates Kagan said it is primordial This one word says a great deal and thus is appropriate in ways than one when describing Babel What does it mean to be primordial? Without focusing too much on the dictionary definition I would say it means to tap into something fundamental Something so simple and basic as to be overlooked Why it's just ooze you might say But in that ooze my friend is everything that was reuired to make you In Babel's primordial prose is all that is reuired Little and nothing less


  3. says:

    This particular edition was translated by Walter Morison with an introduction by Lionel Trilling Babel was an early 20th century Ukrainian author purged by Stalin in the late 1930’s He was a master storyteller and his short stories are incomparable In this volume they are grouped under three overarching titles “Red Cavalry” “Tales of Odessa” and “Stories” Each group is distinctive in its focus although all share a similar general styleTrilling’s long introduction is well worth reading; among other themes touched upon he has a fascinating discussion regarding the relationships among rationality knowledge and violenceThe stories in “Red Cavalry” all involve Cossack forces fighting in Poland All are told in the first person by a Jewish supply clerk attached to the cavalry and are uniformly brutal the harshness exemplifying the grimness of war – slit throats intrafamilial cruelty suffering animals and peasants Life is irrational and bleak without apparent respite The stories are however delightfully unpredictable irreverent shocking and entertaining most being brief; many of the tales have common characters and act somewhat like chapters in a novel without particular linearity of plot Babel’s own Jewishness is everywhere present in terms of his perspective on people and events These are haunting stories poignant and irresistible drawing the reader back to the next and then the next Babel uses evocative and unexpected metaphors “Blue roads flowed past me like streams of milk spurting from many breasts;” “All the stars were doused in ink distended clouds” Ethical dilemmas are continually raised – a wounded soldier is mercifully killed raising the uestion “What is kindness?” Repeated instances demonstrate the ludicrousness of war of its irrationality and errors foul ups mistakes and unpredictability all within a context shedding light on Cossack character and culture Recurring themes and characters weave among these stories like threads in a tapestry and are best appreciated if the stories are read chronologically The stories are striking for their particularity for the portrayal of individual experience in war with no relationship to grand strategy wider history or scope beyond what is right in front of the narrator’s eyes“Tales of Odessa” do not concern themselves with war; they are colorful and extravagant stories filled with finely described characters and in many cases caricatures“Stories” are also largely about persons and events around Odessa still in first person narration loosely connected and giving pictures of everyday life many describing the narrator’s childhood and young adulthoodI can think of few authors I know of who write short stories uite like Babel’s Kafka’s are fantastic although there does at times seem an element of magical realism in Babel’s writing although realism than magic At any rate I found this collection wonderfully written and captivating I recommend it highly


  4. says:

    Punchy taut brisk abrupt grotesue surprisingly subtle and rather laconic To have ridden in the Red Calvary alone as an Odessan Jew was definitely an act of tremendous guts to write about it effectively afterward is even impressive of courseHis short story Guy De Maupassant is perfectHe was snuffed out far too early and was tragically intended to be forgotten by the Stalinist state but his prose sears and burns off the page as if even his sentences themselves are fighting to stay alivePerfect description of a writer with eyeglasses on my nose and autumn in my heart


  5. says:

    Between this translation by Constantine and an older one by Walter Morison I prefer Constantine's He is direct perhaps even snappy or punchy without sacrificing any of Babel's famously strange and lyrical imagery Not that Morison is weak by any means I first encountered Babel through Morison and was bowled over by these violent yet compassionate stories Constantine just deepened exhilirationMy favorite stories are Dolgushov's Death My First Goose and Guy de Maupassant which has one of the great lines in any short story No iron spike can pierce a human heart as icily as a period in the right place


  6. says:

    Critical Response My First Goose by Isaac Babel translated by Walter Morison My First Goose appears as part of Red Cavalry which is essentially a novel told with short stories Red Cavalry was first published in 1929 and is generally considered Babel’s finest work in short form The larger plot is based on Babel’s own experience as a youth fighting among the ranks of Budenny’s notorious Cossack band The plot of My First Goose details in first person perspective the appointment of a young law student to a band of Cassock soldiers near the Chugunov Dobryvodka front The structure is spare and almost dream like; it could be described as an initiation story hinging on the tension of the outsider receiving a test or rite by which he may become an insider Seen another way this story is also a psychological depiction of war’s mentalemotional toll Characterization is essential to the piece as the development of Commander Savitsky into a sort of omniscient antagonist very subtly becomes the essential narrative arc The story begins with a detailed description of the Commander—the most detailed of all the characters in the short piece The greatest clue to story’s primary tension is given in the line “His long legs were like girls sheathed to the neck in shining riding boots” The strange impression of this simile is heighted by an implied sword like aggression or captivity and serves to cast the Commander in starkly ironic light Additionally the arc of the story is achieved as the narrator curls up to sleep having passed his extemporaneous initiation at no small cost to his mental health described thus “We slept all six of us beneath a wooden roof that let in the stars warming one another our legs intermingled I dreamed and in my dreams saw women” It is with this eerily fitting choice of images—legs and women—that Babel completes the story’s resolution And what synecdoche is thematically fitting to a soldiers life—particularly that of the cavalry always on the move—than to ruminate on the legwork of marching and running to battle And in uestions of why we fight perhaps the most poignant is why men are driven to war and women are essentially motivated by peace This thematic tension is initially heightened through an ironic passage of dialogue in which the Commander smilingly dictates orders for some unfortunate soldier to either encounter the enemy and destroy them or face his own destruction at the Commander’s hands The Commander then turns his attention on the narrator with “grey eyes that danced with merriment” and proceeds to mock him for his learning picking in particular the narrator’s glasses as an object of slang derision And it is worth a pause here to note a masterful stroke of insight on the writer’s part After this passage of devious jibes Babel very slyly slips in a brief lyrical passage describing the village and the “dying sun giving up is roseate ghost to the skies” In a sentence describing the height of beauty Babel mingles imagery from the grave and maintains his tension while giving the reader both orientation and a chance to breath before being structurally enjambed with the psychopathic Cossacks which our poor narrator must impress There is also a subtle psychological footnote made about the narrator in so far as the uartermaster who is carrying his trunk offers a clue as to how the narrator must pass Cossack’s test and simultaneously shows himself be a both a little crazy and unwilling to trust the narrator “He came uite close to me only to dart away again despairingly” This description of a marginal character works to both hint to the reader some of the cues and body language which the narrator is experiencing without going into detail about each person’s reaction to him The Cossacks are depicted as insane than the uartermaster as they trash the narrator’s belongings and mock him with the shouts of combat Lyric beauty itself is then ironically employed to illustrate the narrator’s plight with a paragraph that delves into a scene of beauty and torment ending thus “The sun fell upon me from behind the toothed hillocks the Cossacks trod on my feet” It is then that the narrator fixes on the object of his emancipation—someone weaker than himself namely the landlady He proceeds to dominate the landlady demanding food refusing to acknowledge her weak pleas cursing her slowness and then brutally killing a goose in a passage that is as poetic as it is visceral And that’s it By ruthlessly crushing the one figure smaller than himself the narrator has passed the test The Cossacks open their ranks to him and the narrator even manages to display his literacy in a way that the illiterate madmen can understand by reading Lenin’s speech like a stand up routine The double irony is that it is in this fashion that the narrator spies out “exultingly the secret curve of Lenin’s straight line” something that even resonates with his street smart new comrades Throughout My First Goose including the title descriptions and symbolism are used in uniue even unbalanced ways the Commander is described has having “a smell of scent;” the narrator’s response to the Commander causes him to “envy the flower and iron of that youthfulness;” the smoke of homes in the village mingle “hunger with desperate loneliness” in the narrator’s head; the Cossacks observe his violent outburst “stiff as heathen priests;” even the moon hangs above them “like a cheap earring” These subtle details give added meaning to final line’s violent lushness An enviable work of biographical fiction this piece seems both experimental and classical Some figures move through the tale as though allegories of themselves others seem to be so mud drenched and sunburned they defy description but each is vivid in his or her own turn The story arc itself is so charged as to nearly become a character itself and the resolution while concise is anything but abrupt as the words and impressions of the piece seem to filter through the readers mind like feedback


  7. says:

    There's a lot to be said for the work of Isaac Babel Not only did he write at a time when great political forces were at work and not only did he get a chance to participate directly in one of the greatest of these forces the Red Army but Babel's prose style which combines coolly analytical description with just a touch of the surreal especially when it comes to the violence of the Russian Revolution fit his times exceptionally well Or so you could say of the later work in this book The earlier work which plays off of Jewish folk tales and mysticism in general is a whole other breed and eually worthy of critical attention In short an excellent collection that I think is essential for anyone interested in the historical period whether from a literary or a political perspective


  8. says:

    The stories are divided into four groups Early Stories 'Autobiographical' Stories Red Cavalry and Odessa Stories The stories sometimes like sketches in Red Cavalry describe his experiences when he joined the Red Cossacks in the short 1920 war against Poland The emphasis is on the horrors of war and their effect on the men who fight—some rising to heroic action some unable to cope; some unexpectedly rising to leadership some escaping to brutalism In some respects they are euivalent to Crane's Red Badge of Courage The stories demonstrate that little has changed in the way men deal with the barbarities of war A young peasant is elevated to a position of leadership in the field and he rides away from battle with the lordly indifference of a Tartar kahn On the other hand the narrator complains The chronicle of our humdrum evil doings constricts me indefatigably like a heart complaint A red Cossack takes vicious revenge on white Russian villagers who were complicit in the murder of his parents The Odessa Stories describe a rough kind of Yiddish patriarchy Benya Krik the central figure of many of these tales rules the town with an iron hand While the Autobiographical Stories may not be all that autobiographical they do seem to realistically depict a moment in the history of the Russian Jewish community through the eyes of what may well be a typical Jewish child In The Story of My Dovecote the young narrator's childhood innocence embodied in his purchase of pet doves is destroyed by a brutal pogrom which not only kills his birds but his Grand uncle as well First Love continues the tale as the reader is shown the devastating effect of the pogrom on the boy's father Other stories emphasize the importance of learning and art as a means for the Jewish child to get ahead in the gentile world Isaac Babel is a writer whose work deserves to be better known He gives life to a world long past in some ways not unlike other writers such as Zweig or Roth


  9. says:

    I had dreams and saw women in my dreams and only my heart stained crimson with murder sueaked and overflowedFirst things first the cover of this edition is hilariously bad It's a bland black and white photograph of the author 'disappeared' Jewish Russian writer Isaac Babel that makes him look like an insane Chinese shopkeeperSecond things second as with most story collections things tend to be hit or miss but for this one the hits are really all in the central section 'Red Cavalry' which if it had been isolated would have made me rate this a solid four stars The stories in that section are concise and powerful and violent written with a potent intentionally laconic style You can tell that he knew how to use the impact of a full stop and he usually ends each story with a punch like a coup de grace As it happens this collection also includes 'Early Stories' 'Autobiographical Stories' and 'Odessa Stories' which aren't uite as goodLastly Babel took his laconic style all the way to utter silence in the 1930's He once said I am the master of the genre of silence in a dig at the Soviet authorities than any kind of boast It's a cruel coincidence that by the time he was really prepared to start writing the Soviet authorities were cracking down on any literary expression that didn't meet strict Stalinist social realism guidelines Despite or due to his friendship with Yagoda one of the many ill fated chiefs of the Cheka the Soviet secret police by 1940 he was very much out of favor and likely executed immediately after his arrest So I shall write to you only about what my eyes have seen with their own hands


  10. says:

    An astounding collection The short stories of Isaac Babel are unlike those of any other author I've read At first I wasn't sure if I liked them I found them disarming in an odd way concise but directionless too compressed for my taste; but even though they are very precise the prose they are rendered in still manages to be extremely lyrical and mysterious Babel's poetic but muscular style makes it all the devastating when an enigmatic or hallowed scene suddenly explodes into direct or indirect violenceBabel himself was an odd contradiction in terms a Jewish intellectual who became a Bolshevik and fought for the Ukrainian cossacks against Poland in the mostly forgotten Polish Soviet war of 1919 1921 Poland rang rings around the Russians and Ukrainians at the beginning there were Whites Reds and Makhno's anarchists milling about in confusion Many of Babel's stories deal with this conflict and are the best war stories I've ever readOther story cycles include a series set among the Jewish gangsters of Odessa starring Benya Krik the most famous hoodlum of that city and also a set of powerful and darkly funny autobiographical tales But my favourite of all Babel's stories is probably 'The Sin of Jesus' a very peculiar and daring fantasy that criticises the way things are run not just on earth but also in heaven It's an important story and Babel is an incredibly important figure in 20th Century World Literature the eual of Kafka Nabokov and Proust