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Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel

Red Cavalry (1926)

by Isaac Babel

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (11)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (1)  Italian (1)  All (15)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The stories are entertaining; it's the diary excerpts at the back that grab my attention. Seeing how the two tie together is very interesting. ( )
  EricCostello | Aug 6, 2017 |
(2014 Boris Dralyuk translation)

A remarkable assembly of short pieces of writing, somewhere between journalism, short-story collection and novel, making up a composite picture of the experience of war in a Cossack Red Army cavalry unit fighting against the Poles in 1920.

This isn't an anti-war book, of course - as far as Babel and his readers were concerned, their country was being attacked from all sides and had every reason to defend itself - but it's a book that makes no attempt to conceal the cruelty and disorder that go with the suspension of the normal limits of civil society. Passages that seem to be celebrating the exuberance, skill and bloody-mindedness of the Cossacks are set against descriptions of rapes, brutal torture and casual vandalism, and those in turn with lyrical passages where the narrator caught up in the beauty of something in the towns and villages that they are all busy destroying.

The Catholic and Jewish religion of the locals is particularly involved in this: the narrator feels obliged to mock the superstition and exploitation that goes with it, but clearly still has the relics of a religious (urban Jewish) upbringing and the respect for religious leaders and sites that goes with that: in a church with excrement and holy relics scattered over the floor, we get a loving and detailed description of the wonderful naive wall-paintings in which the saints are clearly all modelled on local characters. There are similar tensions going on when the narrator comes into contact with local Jews. He's clearly simultaneously attracted and disgusted by the Hasidic shtetl-culture.

This must have been a very tricky book to translate, as Babel is constantly switching voices and registers without warning, drawing on everything from high literary language to extremely coarse dialect. Dralyuk seems to have done very well and most of the text reads quite naturally, but this isn't a book where you can ever escape from the awareness that what you are reading is a translation. Dialect is always a problem: I found it disconcerting that his Cossacks were using so many Americanisms, but of course it's almost impossible to write earthy dialect that doesn't have some sort of regional marker to it. There were passages I had some trouble making sense of at first, but that probably comes from Dralyuk's poetic instinct to render the full complexity of Babel's layering of images, leaving the reader with a lot of unpacking to do (one of these is the "milk" passage Dralyuk discusses in his English Pen article).

Very interesting, and definitely a book that increased my motivation to learn Russian (although I suspect that it would be quite challenging for a beginner...). ( )
1 vote thorold | Sep 9, 2016 |
This author has been called one of the great Russian writers and yet I had never heard of him until I decided to take part in a reading challenge to read more Russian books. Babel was a correspondent with the Russian cavalry when it invaded Poland in 1920. The notes he made as he travelled with the troops formed the basis for this collection of stories. He published the stories a few years later. The reaction in Russia was mixed. Babel's uncompromising portrayal of the horror of warfare and the depradations of the Ukrainian Cossacks who made up the majority of the cavalry drew criticism from some but ordinary citizens applauded his writing. For some time Babel was honoured in Russia and allowed to travel beyond its borders as he wished. His sister, mother, wife and daughter all moved to Europe but Babel kept being drawn back to Communist Russia. During the Stalin regime he was arrested and then executed but it took decades for his family to learn the truth of his death. A writer who told the truth in the USSR did not survive for long. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 19, 2016 |
Seconda edizione.Il libro si basa su annotazioni raccolte in un diario composto dall'autore durante la guerra, come corrispondente dell'Agenzia telegrafica russa (ROSTA) e dell'organo di stampa dell'armata, "Il cavalleggere rosso". L'elemento di maggiore interesse del libro è il suo realismo e allo stesso tempo la capacità di cogliere i valori e il significato più profondo della guerra e dei rapporti tra commilitoni. Degna di nota è la capacità da parte dell'autore, nonostante l'origine ebraica, di osservare, come membro di quella comunità ma da una posizione privilegiata, emancipata e non più succube, le speranze, i pensieri e le paure di costoro, il più delle volte spettatori o peggio vittime degli eventi storici.
  vecchiopoggi | Jan 26, 2016 |
Reading this book while hearing the Red Army Choir. This collection of short stories is like an intricate embroidering where characters and stories are entwined together. I really liked that it shows many aspects of war; some surprising, some sad and some joyful. ( )
  Kirmuriel | Sep 19, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (70 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isaac Babelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Catteau, JacquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Constantine, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dirda, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dralyuk, BorisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maspons, OriolPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mir, EnricDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Urban, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zgustová, MonikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393324230, Paperback)

"Amazing not only as literature but as biography."—Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

One of the great masterpieces of Russian literature, the Red Cavalry cycle retains today the shocking freshness that made Babel's reputation when the stories were first published in the 1920s. Using his own experiences as a journalist and propagandist with the Red Army during the war against Poland, Babel brings to life an astonishing cast of characters from the exuberant, violent era of early Soviet history: commissars and colonels, Cossacks and peasants, and among them the bespectacled, Jewish writer/intellectual, observing it all and trying to establish his role in the new Russia. Drawn from the acclaimed, award-winning Complete Works of Isaac Babel, this volume includes all of the Red Cavalry cycle; Babel's 1920 diary, from which the material for the fiction was drawn; and his preliminary sketches for the stories—the whole constituting a fascinating picture of a great writer turning life into art.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:51 -0400)

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W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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