Isaac Babel

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briefer than borges, alternately starker than hemingway and more optically precise than nabokov, funnier than dostoyevsky, darker than o'connor, a better war correspondent than tolstoy, murdered by a state sicker than kafka. (his last work: a signed confession, spattered w/ blood.) an interlocking story cycle about the rise of a jewish gangster in odessa, structured like pulp fiction! an icon painter who inserts the faces of locals as biblical figures, kinda like swann in proust, except amidst dangerous and violent political upheaval instead of as a charming eccentricity to deploy at the salon! available in a handsome and comprehensive softcover edition, with maps! how do we feel.

my Sonicare toothbrush (difficult listening hour), Monday, 29 August 2011 15:33 (ten years ago) link

I discovered him in the early 2000's after reading James Wood's essay. I preferred the later, longer stories. The shorter earlier ones are very indebted to Turgenev's Sportsman'ss Sketches.

a 'catch-all', almost humorous, 'Jeez' quality (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 29 August 2011 15:44 (ten years ago) link

i'm not there yet, optimistic but skeptical about the idea of longer stories being better than shorter ones

my Sonicare toothbrush (difficult listening hour), Monday, 29 August 2011 15:49 (ten years ago) link

i haven't read the wood essay but i see that it is online! i discovered him cuz i kept reading his name on casualty lists.

my Sonicare toothbrush (difficult listening hour), Monday, 29 August 2011 15:50 (ten years ago) link

Never said that!

The Red Calvary read like he's just discovering his subject. The "Odessa" stuff is the culmination.

a 'catch-all', almost humorous, 'Jeez' quality (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 29 August 2011 15:51 (ten years ago) link

haha i wasn't accusing you of being categorical.

the odessa cycle and red cavalry are more or less simultaneous i think, published throughout the 20s, although the later odessa stuff does yeah push into the 30s? anyway yeah the odessa stuff is grrrrrrreat. there's also a play synthesizing a bunch of them, i guess, somewhere in the back.

my Sonicare toothbrush (difficult listening hour), Monday, 29 August 2011 15:58 (ten years ago) link

this wood essay is excellent as usual at describing style and (most importantly) at quoting, but lol @ wood being shocked, shocked! to discover soviet propaganda in the work of russia's star author of the 1920s

my Sonicare toothbrush (difficult listening hour), Monday, 29 August 2011 16:05 (ten years ago) link

That's a handsome-looking edition, Sonicare toothbrush. I've got the incomplete old Penguin collection, which does have a great photo of Babel on the front.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/P/0140184627.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

I love his stuff, the later stories especially, but even the early stuff is pretty amazing

not bulimic, just a cat (James Morrison), Monday, 29 August 2011 23:27 (ten years ago) link

goodness gracious.

the-dream in the witch house (difficult listening hour), Tuesday, 30 August 2011 03:21 (ten years ago) link

five months pass...

the long, fleshy, slavic ears are unfortunate, but at least he differs from trotsky in that he doesn't look like a cumulonimbus is gathering on his scalp:
http://www.bhoutlook.us/bhoimages/booktrotsky-0814.jpg

Iris, Wednesday, 1 February 2012 08:37 (ten years ago) link

eleven months pass...

i googled "funnier than dostoyevsky"

attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or (thomp), Thursday, 24 January 2013 21:24 (nine years ago) link

mainly because there were no results for "less funny than dostoyevsky"

attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or (thomp), Thursday, 24 January 2013 21:24 (nine years ago) link

nine years pass...

Not sure I'd heard of him today but Collected Works looked interesting in a charity shop.
Maybe name did ring a bell or it wouldn't have sounded like something to check out.

Stevolende, Tuesday, 14 June 2022 19:34 (two weeks ago) link


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