The Collected Stories

The Collected Stories

The Collected Stories

The Collected Stories

Excerpt

A good many years ago, in 1929, I chanced to read a book which disturbed me in a way I can still remember. The book was called Red Cavalry; it was a collection of stories about Soviet regiments of horse operating in Poland. I had never heard of the author, Isaac Babel -- or I. Babel as he signed himself -- and nobody had anything to tell me about him, and part of my disturbance was the natural shock we feel when, suddenly and without warning, we confront a new talent of great energy and boldness. But the book was disturbing for other reasons as well.

In those days one still spoke of the "Russian experiment" and one might still believe that the light of dawn glowed on the test-tubes and crucibles of human destiny. And it was still possible to have very strange expectations of the new culture that would arise from the Revolution. I do not remember what my own particular expectations were, except that they involved a desire for an art that would have as little ambiguity as a proposition in logic. Why I wanted this I don't wholly understand. It was as if I had hoped that the literature of the Revolution would realize some simple, inadequate notion of the "classical" which I had picked up at college; and perhaps I was drawn to this notion of the classical because I was afraid of the literature of modern Europe, because I was scared of its terrible intensities, ironies, and ambiguities. If this is what I really . . .

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