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Red Cavalry

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  1,396 ratings  ·  53 reviews
One of the great masterpieces of Russian literature, the Red Cavalry cycle retains today the shocking freshness that made Babel's reputation when the stories were first published in the 1920s. Using his own experiences as a journalist and propagandist with the Red Army during the war against Poland, Babel brings to life an astonishing cast of characters from the exuberant, ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 17th 2003 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1920)
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Bill  Kerwin

These laconic, brutal sketches packed with lush, eccentric imagery tell the story of the campaign of the Cossacks of the Red Calvary against the Poles in the days following the revolution.

Babel--a Jewish intellectual from the cosmopolitan port city of Odessa--was assigned to a regiment of Cossacks, and he used his sharp eye and outsider's perspective to reveal to his readers the character of these barbarians of the plains. He shows us Cossacks who are violent, merciless, sentimental, cynical, an
Elijah Spector
I had two different professors, of two different disciplines, recommend this book to me, then I saw the cover and had to have it. It wasn't long before my girlfriend got it for me for Hanukkah, but it was almost a year before I was able to read it myself.

In short, Red Cavalry is amazing, but I could see it being disappointing for those who go in with the wrong expectations. Babel's style here is, I think, a natural progression from Tolstoy's--that is, he's even less caught up with writing someth
It's hard to say I *like* this book, given the subject matter of war and death, but I certainly admire Babel's writing. His imagery is both nightmarish and fantastic:

"Fields of purple poppies are blossoming around us, a noon breeze is frolicking in the yellowing rye, virginal buckwheat is standing on the horizon like the wall of a faraway monastery... The orange sun is rolling across the sky like a severed head, gentle light glimmers in the ravines among the clouds, the banners of the sunset are
May 18, 2008 Gideon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: russophiles, modernists, conflict students
Shelves: faves
This is Babel's fictionalized account of his journalistic days as a writer for the Krasny Kavalieri - "The Red Cavalry" - the Bolshevik propaganda newspaper written for the Cossack shock troops who marauded the Ukraine and Poland in 1918-1919. As harrowing as any war coverage ever written by Ernest Hemingway, Babel has a precise, beautiful, haunting prose style excellently translated in this Norton Edition. Banned under the Soviet Union, Babel was purged by Stalin for displaying the horrors of w ...more
Nov 26, 2010 Tyler rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Stream of Consciousness
Recommended to Tyler by: Various Reviews
Red Cavalry consists of around 100 pages of Isaac Babel's Red Cavalry stories, plus another 90 pages of field notes Babel took during the Polish campaign and a few other odds and ends.

The stories come in the form of a stream of consciousness that oppresses me by its closed perspective and traps readers in a permanent present. The loosely connected tales have no beginnings and no ends, no character development, nor even any plot to speak of. Lacking any explanations, the stories in no way enligh
Absolutely stunning. Babel is a favourite of mine, up near the top.

Read an article today (July 09) about him on Narrative:

made me want to go and dig out my copy immediately. (I will when I get home from work).
I notice no friends have this on GR. I can't believe none have read him. Is it because it's so obvious it doesn't need saying? (or maybe the comments are on another edition, I've noticed that in the past).
Czarny Pies
Nov 16, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who like to read about war.
Shelves: russian-lit
This is an excellent collection of stories the horrors of war. I found it to be of the same outstanding quality as Erich Maria Remarque's "All quiet on the Western Front." The big question is having read one or two books in the genre why would you want to continue. I leave this question to you.

My interested in Babel's book came from the fact that it involved the atrocities committed by the Communist Cossacks in the Polish-Russian War of 1918-1920 that my wife's grandfather participated in on th
Julia Boechat Machado
All my reviews are currently in Library Thing. I'm no longer updating my GR since it was bought by Amazon.
Ruínas humanas na infância da revolução

Você provavelmente não conhece Isaac Bábel (1894 – 1940) - e muitos dos que conhecem, incluindo eu, só tiveram contato com sua obra depois que o autor foi mencionado no romance Vastas Emoções e Pensamentos Imperfeitos, de Rubem Fonseca, no qual um cineasta brasileiro era levado à União Soviética para trabalhar no roteiro de um longa-metragem que adaptava um fictício romance de Bábel, encontrado anos depois de sua morte. Depois do livro de Fonseca, aquela qu
Babel is another case of a literature genius that I do not like so much to read, mostly because this little short stories, for example, took place during the war and are sad and full of violence and death but still in his description there is beauty and poetry.

Babel é un altro di quei casi di geni della letteratura che peró non mi piacciono tanto, nel suo caso principlmente perché le sue storie, come queste per esempio, sono tutte ambientate durante la guerra e sono tristi e piene di violenza e
A set of violent snapshots of the Cossacks of the Russian Revolution. Tragic and blood-drenched and poignant.
Pologne & Ukraine, 1920. L’Armée Rouge de l’URSS naissante (qui en fait ne s’appelle pas encore l’URSS, mais on va faire comme si) rase les campagnes & combat ce qui reste d’aristocratie & d’oppression impérialiste dans le coin. C’est une campagne à laquelle Isaac Babel a participé & c’est son journal auquel on a droit en fin de livre, & c’est de son journal qu’il puise les détails des nouvelles qui s’étirent pendant deux cent cinquante-huit pages, j’ai compté. Ce sont des no ...more
This was an assigned text for my Intro to Creative Writing class at the University of Utah - taught by Caren Beilin.

It was used as a demonstration of what we called a Series I Remember form. Snippets of individual memories, all falling under one themed umbrella.

The writing style is not for everyone, but I enjoyed my brief encounter with it.
Gijs Grob
Korte, fragmentarische en autobiografische verhalen uit de Pools-Russische oorlog van vlak na de Oktoberrevolutie. De meeste verhalen stammen uit de oorlog zelf (1920) en zijn directe beschrijvingen ervan: Isaak Babel reist als gebrilde intellectueel mee met de Rode kozakkenkavalerie en noteert wat hij hoort, leest en ziet. Zakelijk maar met gevoel beschrijft hij ontheemde boeren, vernielde kerken, verdorven soldaten, sneuvelende paarden, rancuneuze officieren en al de eerste keerzijden van de r ...more
Perez Malone
I wanted to be more into it than I was. Some of the stories really gripped me. Others not so much. I found the extreme brevity of many of them to actually deter my enjoyment. Sometimes, when I sit down to read, it takes a few pages for my concentration to settle (I've been a bit distracted lately). When the stories are only two or three pages, I can miss a lot. Anyway, that's just me. The stories that worked for me really worked.

I like that these stories are not focused on the action of war, as
Seth Augenstein
Interlinked, pretty great, and pretty terrible in its power. I could say other pretentious things, but it's best devoured in all its brutality first-hand.
Jan 05, 2011 Tim rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
I wanted to be more into it than I was. Some of the stories really gripped me. Others not so much. I found the extreme brevity of many of them to actually deter my enjoyment. Sometimes, when I sit down to read, it takes a few pages for my concentration to settle (I've been a bit distracted lately). When the stories are only two or three pages, I can miss a lot. Anyway, that's just me. The stories that worked for me really worked.

I like that these stories are not focused on the action of war, as
Mar 13, 2010 Leslie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historians, anthropologists, cossacks, jews
Despite feeling lost in the history and geography of the region, I greatly enjoyed this book for the its stark and arresting portrayal of Cossack warriors in the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. The young narrator, an embedded journalist, views the war with an outsider's eye. Far from being a Cossack, he is a plump, bespectacled Jewish intellectual, a perspective that subtly informs this work of genius. The surprising imagery, the dailiness of atrocity, the unthinking brutality paint a picture ...more
Raquel Toledo
Issac Babel narra, em 36 contos curtos, algumas de suas experiências vividas quando era jornalista enviado ao front russo na guerra contra a Polônia.
Essas experiências eram anotadas num ritmo frenético nos caderninhos que serviram de diário a Babel, todavia só um deles resistiu ao tempo.
Os contos são baseados nessas anotações, e trazem a violência da revolução vivida pelos cossacos que compunham o batalhão que Babel acompanhou. Mas não só violência enche as páginas desse livro. A visão do autor
Best read in small doses, in rare moments of lucidity
Philip Sweet
While emotionally moving in its brutality and remarkable for its modern yet readable style, I fear that much as been lost in the cultural translation. I mean this not as a barb against the translator, so much as against the western reader. This collection gives very little background, having been published in newspapers while these events were unfolding, and so unless one is well aware of Russian culture and social dynamics just after the turn of the 20th century, a great deal of the stories wei ...more
Jun 26, 2014 Barbara marked it as to-read
*Borrow from library
Bloody, rich in colour and enormously straight. The Russian revolution and the white wars gave birth to a generation of impressive realist authors without ideal and Babel rightfully is their most famous proponent. Babel shares his experiences with naive, idealistic, primitive and bloodthirsty cosaks, his fellow cavallerymen. He shows a war with all shades of grey and certainly no white. An honesty that made him a literary shooting star and got him killed by Stalin some ten years later.
It's hard to say one "likes" as grim a book as this, but Red Cavalry leaves a powerful impression. It is a stark tale of war written from the point of a writer supremely unsuited for it and yet thrust into it. The account vividly describes the violence and devastation, as well as the absurd banality that so often characterizes the world of those caught up in the daily realities of war. Babel's imagery is arresting and unforgettable.
A stunning short story collection--hits you like a whack on the head with an oak plank. the violence is sudden and shocking, as it is in life. Babel rode with the Cossack Red Cavalry during the Russian Civil War, 1920. It, and he, were nothing if not collossal contradictions--A jewish intellectual riding with Cossacks in a Red battalion???? Babel doesn't even try to bridge the contradictions, he just rides it to the end. Wow.
Ravaged countrysides, ravaged people turning on each other. Cosacks weeping over dead horses while corpses pile up. Civilians trying to survive. Hayrides armed with machine guns. Our hero finds himself pissing on a dead Polish soldier, covered in ripped up propaganda leaflets. Synagogues burning, 20 years before Hitler made it official. The word "Czernobyl" pops up once or twice for extra emphasis. Even harsher in hindsight.
Stunningly beautiful writing (and a fantastic translation) about grim, grim, grim subject matter. The stories revolve around war (specifically, the 1920 Soviet invasion of Poland), but battle is seen around the fringes of these short stories. The focus is the brutality of everyday life in war time. A phenomenal work of literature that (to my mind) bridges the gap between classical Russian literature and modernism.
As someone with a strong interest in the place and time in which this collection of stories is set, my opinion is likely biased.

At first, when initially looking through this book, I was somewhat disappointed by the short length of the stories. When reading them, though, I found each of them to be a self-contained and vivid piece of art, and they did not disappoint.
Brent Legault
Nov 25, 2009 Brent Legault rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who gives a rat's ass about the early days of the USSR
This one was, uh, a little too "sticky" for my taste. What do I mean by "sticky?" An excellent question, though I asked it of myself. Truth is, I have no idea. But if there is a yin-yang opposite of "umami" then it's something like "sticky." It was at times only a hint of "sticky." But it was mostly, for me, a (ahem) tsunami of anti-"umami."
Judging by the 30+ pages of introductions to this, the most important book of all time, I'm guessing I was supposed to get more out of it than I did. Some nice war stories. If you can call war stories 'nice.' The writing is full of sentences like, "The orange sun is rolling across the sky like a severed head."
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Isaak Emmanuilovich Babel (Russian: Исаак Эммануилович Бабель; 1901 - 1940) was a Russian language journalist, playwright, literary translator, and short story writer. He is best known as the author of Red Cavalry, Story of My Dovecote, and Tales of Odessa, all of which are considered masterpieces of Russian literature. Babel has also been acclaimed as "the greatest prose writer of Russian Jewry." ...more
More about Isaac Babel...
The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel The Complete Works of Isaac Babel Tales of Odessa Red Cavalry and Other Stories 1920 Diary

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