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Babel’s “Red Cavalry:” Story, History, and the Hidden Plot, with Gregory (Grisha) Freidin

Hosted By: Yiddish Book Center (Amherst, MA)

“The slim volume of Isaac Babel’s “Red Cavalry”(1926) contains thirty-five short stories set in the Soviet-Polish War of 1920, but its modest size belies its significance. The pieces roughly follow the chronological order of the 1920 campaign and are threaded together by a first-person narrator, some secondary figures, and setting. Compact, the book casts a vast shadow, more typical of a novel or a war epic. As a work of art, it has remained unique. Neither Russian nor Russian Jewish literature can be imagined without its intense smells and a lush palette, its stunning scenes of violence, lust and debasement, its profound humanity, and its mythic and apocalyptic grandeur. No history of the Russian revolution is complete without it. I propose that “Red Cavalry” stories, powerful yet fragmented as they may appear at first, project a deeper plot, one that re-articulates the book’s overall story in a meaningful and striking fashion. I hope to offer a reading to ferret it out.”-Gregory (Grisha) Freidin

Gregory (Grisha) Freidin was Professor of Russian at Stanford University (1978–2015). He is the author of a critical biography of Osip Mandelstam, “A Coat of Many Colors;” editor and contributor: Russian Culture in Transition, Isaac Babel’s Selected Writings (Norton Critical Edition), “The Enigma of Isaac Babel;” with Victoria E. Bonnell and Ann Cooper, “Russia on the Barricades: Eyewitness Accounts of the 1991 Coup;” translator: “Khrushchev Remembers” (1970, with Strobe Talbott), “The American Federalis”t (Американские федералисты, 1990). Current projects include “Messiah from Odessa: Isaac Babel. A Critical Biography” (Reaktion Books, UK, EDP: 2024).

Presented as part of the Yiddish Book Center’s 2022 Great Jewish Books Club. Learn more about the Book Club here: yiddishbookcenter.org/book-club
This live event will be presented via Zoom. Space is limited. —registration is required.

The event listed here is hosted by a third party. My Jewish Learning/70 Faces Media is not responsible for its content or for errors in the listing.


Yiddish Book Center (Amherst, MA)

The Yiddish Book Center is a nonprofit organization working to tell the whole Jewish story by rescuing, translating, and disseminating Yiddish books and presenting innovative educational programs that broaden understanding of modern Jewish identity. The Yiddish Book Center is home to permanent and visiting exhibits; two performance halls with a year-round schedule of educational programs, concerts (including the annual Yidstock: The Festival of New Yiddish Music), films, and events; an English-language bookstore; and a million Yiddish books.
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