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This collection of short stories about life among Jewish traders, workers and robbers in early 20th century Odessa, leading up to the revolution, almost packs the same punch as Red Cavalry That s high praise Yes, it s a bit uneven, but the best stories here are astounding, switching from jovial tales of childhood that never forget the darkness underneath, to brutally violent stories of antisemitism and crime, all with a language that wants to squeeze out evey possibility carbonated with a dark sense of humour.Take The Story of My Dovecot , for instance, which starts out as a hopeful story about how the narrator has saved for years to buy the pigeons he wants to raise, then suddenly out of nowhere the bright market day careens into bloody surrealism My world was tiny, and it was awful I closed my eyes so as not to see it, and pressed myself tight into the ground that lay beneath me in soothing dumbness This trampled earth in no way resembled real life, waiting for exams in real life Somewhere far away Woe rode across it on a great steed, but the noise of the hoofbeats grew weaker and died away, and silence, the bitter silence that sometimes overwhelms children in their sorrow, suddenly deleted the boundary between body and the earth that was moving nowhither The earth smelled of raw depths, of the tomb, of flowers I smelled its smell and started crying, unafraid I was walking along an unknown street set on either side with white boxes, walking in a getup of bloodstained feathers, alone between the pavements swept clean as on Sunday, weeping bitterly, fully and happily as I never wept again in all my lifeuntil at the end, we understand what this child is experiencing And so with Kuzma I went to the home of the tax inspector, where my parents, escaping the pogrom, had sought refuge.The irony only gets bleaker when I look at the foreword of my 1960 edition Isaac Babel, 1894 1941 That a writer capable of captuing the wold s messiness like this was not only denied the right to live, but even the right to a proper death, instead was swallowed in silence up by a dictator s prison camps, is beyond criminal. I ve been trying to figure out why Babel hasn t stolen my heart On paper this collection has everything I love I love all things Russian and all things Jewish and all things modernist The comedy in those stories of Moldavanka thugs should be totally up my street And yet, there was something too grotesque, too putrid for me to be able to laugh at it There was nothing cheerful about this comedy and no depth to those characters it felt like watching them through a thick semi opaque glass Or maybe I like my gangsters glamourous This was just violent and chaotic did Benya Krik got married twice in two completely different stories Did I miss something Was it two alternative histories Did something happen between Did I get the wrong end of the stick here Am I overthinking this A few times while reading this I wondered why any of those people bothered with living They didn t really seem sold on the idea.The semi autobiographical stories in the collection spoke to me and eventually saved this reading experience. Read Pdf ☪ Одесские рассказы ♻ The Odessa Tales Russian Is A Collection Of Short Stories By Isaac Babel, Situated In Odessa In The Last Days Of The Russian Empire And The Russian Revolution Published Individually In Magazines Throughout And And Collected Into A Book In , They Deal Primarily With A Group Of Jewish Thugs That Live In The Moldavanka, A Ghetto Of Odessa ARC review Pushkin Press 2016 edition, translated by Boris Dralyuk 3.5 Many of these stories are like overhearing gossip in a pub or caf in a town you don t know there s an intimacy to them, people and their personalities aren t explained as such, they simply are as they are Characters are introduced in a way, but very much like the oral tradition, as if, in a way, they are already familiar even though you, personally, happen to be hearing of them for the first time And the tone is recognisably that of East European Jewish stories of the early twentieth century, like Sholem Aleichem or another Isaac, Bashevis Singer Aside from the bustling, occasionally comic but fairly often tragic humanity for this is the time of the Russian Revolution and its suppressions , there are interspersed some stunning descriptions of scenery if the ostensibly autobiographical story is true in which the fourteen year old scribbler is told he needs to observe and understand nature , he evidently took the advice to heart Similarly, Babel s observation in one of the essay fragments near the end, that the Golden Age Russian writers didn t give enthusiastic and passionate descriptions of the sun suggests, when read after the short stories, that he from the warm south of the country endeavoured to write his own instead.One of my enduring obsessions when reading any foreign fiction is sense of place, and I must admit I d have liked a little here, about the surroundings and the culture I found myself filling in gaps with other things I d read, but I don t really know that much about Odessa itself, and have heard about shtetl culture In Aleichem I found a deep sense of a culture and environment now lost which he didn t realise at time of writing would be annihilated this collection was about individuals and family members, in part 2, and earlier about gangsters, who are pretty similar in their behaviour the world over, it seems Perhaps because Babel largely wrote and published under the Soviet regime, his portrayals are ambivalent than Aleichem s A famous old gangster meets his demise at the hands of the Cheka but how much better was life really when the likes of him ruled the neighbourhood And not so many today would be sad that a mohel who insisted on sucking blood with his mouth was prohibited from practising by the Russian authorities The revolution may have been an oppressive machine, but life was far from idyllic before, and some of the most haunting stories are those about pogroms During one, an angry working class Russian says, We don t need no freedom just so the Yids get free trade This apparent angry willingness to decrease civil liberties as a corollary of decreasing trade opportunities for a despised, perceived better off group sounds too familiar again nowadays Whilst there is no shortage of strong characters in the Odessa Stories, there maybe isn t such a lot of comedy and sense of joy in life whether it was before or after the revolution, repression maybe just embarrassment follows soon enough, perhaps most notably in The Story of my Dovecote , which encompasses the greatest emotional range of all the pieces in this collection a title which it s impossible to see in the same way after reading the story and comically In the Basement touching on the personally familiar sense of not having realised when younger that oneself and one s own family are interesting than many of us think.Babel or his narrators repeat many times the stereotype of Jewish men as puny but brainy still alive and well nowadays in the idea of Jewish action movie heroes as essentially comic, e.g The Hebrew Hammer and that other one I can t remember and can t find online as I m writing this really quickly or the review I read somewhere on GR a few years ago in which a reader was surprised and pleased to discover a book on Jewish gangsters in the US This emphasis of Babel s own gives a contrast all the greater to the stories of gangsters and the roughneck Odessa draymen who were their forefathers Boris Dralyuk, of Odessan descent himself by the sounds of it, explains some of his translation choices in the introduction I wasn t sure about all of them cited I do like an original metaphor preserved wherever possible, but it all reads reasonably enough I have tentative reservations about the sequence of stories in this volume I d have liked to see how it flowed with the family stories first, but themselves in a different order, and the gangsters as part two But, whilst I ve not read Babel before, I get the impression this provides a good short introduction to his stories for those who may not want to plunge into a collected edition first time Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher, Pushkin Press, for this free advance review copy. Odessa Stories by Isaac Babel translated by Boris Dralyuk 3.5 starsAlthough I knew the name of Isaac Babel and a little bit about his life, this is the first book by him that I have read This short story collection contains both the better known Odessa Tales , and other stories by Babel about his time growing up in Nikolayev and Odessa.This volume opens with an interesting introduction by the translator, giving some background about Babel, Odessa and the context of the stories.I didn t find Part 1, with the tales about the gangsters and misfits of Odessa, very interesting However, I thought Part 2, Childhood and Youth , was extremely good The stories were informative, funny, poignant and upsetting at various times Part 3 had some interesting snippets also.Thank you to Pushkin Press and to NetGalley for an ARC. This Pushkin Press edition brings together all of Isaac Babel s stories with an Odessa setting, in a new translation by Boris Dralyuk Dralyuk also provides a helpful introduction which explains the context of the stories and gives insights into his approach to the translation We learn, for instance, that at the start of the 20th century Odessa had the largest Jewish settlement after New York and Warsaw, counting around 140,000 Jews The community had also its seamier underworld, largely based in the area of Moldavanka This part of the city, which Dralyuk compares to London s Whitechapel or New York s Lower East Side, led to the development of what one might call Odessa s urban folklore , peopled by gangsters at once reviled for their violence and revered for their roguish charm and peculiar code of honour.The first part of this volume of stories is entitled Gangsters and other Old Odessans and includes tales inspired by this urban folklore They feature recurring characters such as Benya the King Krik, Froim the Rook and Lyubka the Cossack I must confess that I did not find these criminals particularly likeable, nor did I warm to their dubious exploits Whatever my feelings about his protagonists, however, there s no denying Isaac Babel s brilliance as a writer His style is very particular, alternating dark humour with lyrical passages inspired, according to Dralyuk, by the argot of Odessa It must have been a particular challenge to capture the flow of the originals in this English translation, but Dralyuk manages to do so effectively by drawing, believe it or not, on the style of American pulp fiction contemporary with Babel s stories The gangster tales are complemented by a number of autobiographical works, grouped under the title Childhood and Youth These vignettes reflect Babel s Odessan upbringing, but they are an imaginative interpretation of his childhood impressions, rather than a memoir You could call it autobiographical fiction, or fictional autobiography Three pieces which could not be comfortably placed under either of these two sections are placed in a final part Loose Leaves and Apocrypha This is a collection to read, both for the quality of its stories and for the snapshot it gives of the Jewish community of Odessa at a particular point in time Here was a world which would soon change forever. 1894 1940 , 1939 , 27 1940 1932., 23, 38 1934., 1937 1939 15 1954 , 17 1941 90 , 27 1940 , 1965 , 1996 2010 20 40% The book really consists of 3 parts The first part, Tales of Odessa as such, is absolute gem it is a tribute to the fading world of the Jews of Odessa, colourful as paintings by Marc Chagall His writing is economic and atmospheric The situations described would feel phantasmagoric and absurd all the better, because it was the real life of that community before it has been destroyed and faded into the past.The second part is autobiographic stories, though i doubt they all really happened to Babel And you would understand my doubts if you read the book the protagonist constantly makes up stories about himself within the stories The first one The story of my dovecote is the most poignant and shocking It is devoted to a pogrom in Nikolaev witnessed through the eyes of 11 year old boy After reading it, one would understand better why so many Jews have supported the revolution and the bolsheviks specifically.The third part are just sketches from post revolutionary St Petersburg They are less impressive.I ve read the book in Russian I would not know how you can convey the first part in translation It is full of Jewish and Odessa slang and spirit But I hope, the translation keeps the original alive Fantastic expressive short stories , 80 70 , 90 ,. So excited to be starting this book Isaac Babel was one of the few great prose writers to come out of the Russian Revolution for most, the events just happened too fast, and the pressure on prose too great politically, socially but Babel had a wealth to share, and these stories of the rough, gangsterish world of Odessa, and his anti hero, jewish gangster kingpin Benya Krik, made his name So excited to read this new translation by Boris Dralyuk, a resident of Los Angeles but a native of Odessa For Dralyuk, the essence of these beloved stories, about the has always resided in the language, the particular Odessa patois, a Yiddish flavored, tough guy argot which embodies the temperament and flavor of that melting pot city where Jews and Greeks, Turks and Syrians and Russians, East and West, crime and commerce, came together in a vital, sometimes violent encounter Anybody who likes tough guys, wise guys from Malamud to Scorsese to Damon Runyon, will love these Babel tales Slated for publication on Nov 15 YAY, the Guardian agrees ,