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Odessa Stories


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About the Author

Isaac Babel was a short-story writer, playwright, literary translator and journalist. He joined the Red Army as a correspondent during the Russian civil war. The first major Russian-Jewish writer to write in Russian, he was hugely popular during his lifetime. He was murdered in Stalin's purges in 1940, at the age of 45.


"One of those 'where have you been all my life?' book . . . Fractured, jarring, beautiful, alive to humour . . . an excellent translation."
-Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

"These celebrated stories have never been rendered with the cutting flair Boris Dralyuk's new English translations impart to them . . . Babel's is an ebullient elegy, filled with violence, sex, and life."
-Los Angeles Review of Books

"The salty speech of the city's inhabitants is wonderfully rendered in a new translation by Boris Dralyuk, who preserves the characters' Yiddishisms ('He doesn't talk much, but when he talks, you want he should keep talking') and imbues the dialogue with hard-boiled language reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett ('Buzz off, coppers... or we'll flatten you'). Although Babel mostly lets characters speak for themselves, the narrators' descriptions can be as luxurious as the stolen jewels given to Benya's sister on her wedding night, or as surprising as a slap in the face."

"Glorious stories by the incomparable Babel . . . This wonderful collection is a companion volume to Red Cavalry. Babel is required reading."
Eileen Battersby, Irish Times (Best Books of 2016)

"Electric, heroically wrought prose."
-John Updike

"Aside from being a great writer, Babel stands as an emblem of the tragedy of 20th century totalitarianism . . . literary genius framed by 20th-century tragedy."
-New York Times

"His is still an original, sparky voice sounding out of the great Russian literary pantheon."
-Paddy Kehoe, RTE Arena

"Sparkling, wily and loose-tongued . . . Babel's dialogue calls for a daring translator . . . Boris Dralyuk delivers brilliantly."
-Times Literary Supplement

"It is impossible to look at the world the same way after reading Babel . . . one of the enduring jewels of 20th-century Russian literature."
-Financial Times

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