Isaac Babel

Gangsters, beggars, prostitutes and other inhabitants of Jewish Odessa.

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Legacy and Translation


After Stalin's death, Babel was posthumously exonerated from the charges that had led to his murder. Censored versions of his work began appearing in print in the late 1950s, though it was not until the Soviet Union's collapse that the fuller editions of his writing became available.

Babel's poetic admixture of Yiddishized Russian puzzled numerous translators, and while some of his work appeared in recent decades, a collection of his complete works was not introduced to American audiences until 2007. Ever since, there has been a great resurgence of interest in the author, among Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike.

A voice from a world long-vanished, Babel remains mysteriously foreign, tragic, and enticing. As one of Babel's great characters, the beggar-sage Arye Leib, once told his listener: "So, now you know the whole story. But what's the use? On your nose, you still got a pair of spectacles, and inside of you? It's a perpetual autumn."

Translations are based on "The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel," edited by Nathalie Babel and translated by Peter Constantine. It was published by W.W. Norton in 2002.
 

 

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Jake Marmer

Jake Marmer is a poet and performer, living in New York City. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at CUNY Graduate Center. You can find more of his work at jakemarmer.wordpress.com.