Babel, Isaac [БАБЕЛЬ, ИСААК] (1894–1940) By Van de Stadt, Janneke
Known primarily for his short fiction, Isaac Babel was one of the most important literary figures of early Soviet Russia. He was born in 1894 to a Jewish family in Odessa, a city that figures prominently in his writing. Babel rose to both national and international fame in the mid-1920s with Red Cavalry (Konarmiia), a cycle of stories depicting General Semen Budenny’s ruthless military campaign in Poland. Although he continued to write through the 1930s, Babel was forced to do so cautiously due to the rising political and creative repression under Stalin. By 1934 he was effectively reduced to what he called “the genre of literary silence.” Arrested on trumped-up charges of espionage, the author was executed in 1940. His work was banned until he was formally exonerated in 1954.