Confronting the Legacy of the Stereotype:
Babel, Rybakov, and Jewish Death
In my examination of Leonid Tsypkin's novel Summer in Baden-Baden, I discussed in some detail perhaps the most provocative twentieth-century response to Dostoevsky's portrait of a Jewish character, Isay Fomich from Notes from the House of the Dead. In my conclusion I would like to continue this approach, briefly discussing the most interesting responses to Gogol's and Turgenev's representation of the Jewish stereotype, particularly their portrayal of Jewish death, in Anatoly Rybakov's novel Heavy Sand (Tiazhelyi pesok, 1978) and Isaac Babel's story “Crossing the Zbrucz” (1924), the first story of his famous collection of tales about the Russian-Polish War, Red Cavalry.
Rybakov's Heavy Sand, the first widely read work of Russian fiction since the 1930s dealing extensively with Jewish life during the Soviet period, is a bold and—problematic—attempt, working within accepted Soviet literary practice, to use the momentous events of the Bolshevik Revolution and