David A. Lowe (essay date spring 1982)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Lowe, David A. “A Generic Approach to Babel's Red Cavalry.Modern Fiction Studies 28, no. 1 (spring 1982): 69-78.

[In the following essay, Lowe explores links between Red Cavalry and the Renaissance novella.]

One would have to search far and wide for a work more emblematic of twentieth-century literary concerns and techniques than Isaak Babel's Red Cavalry (Konarmija, 1926). The narrator, a revolutionary and an outsider, seeks meaning, purpose, and self-knowledge in a world torn apart by violent upheaval. Adrift in a primordial Darwinian maelstrom, Ljutov has only esthetic irony to rely on as an instrument of cognition. His...

(The entire section is 4422 words.)

Gareth Williams (essay date April 1984)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Williams, Gareth. “The Rhetoric of Revolution in Babel's Konarmija.Russian Literature 15, no. 3 (April 1984): 279-98.

[In the following essay, Williams investigates the influence of revolutionary propaganda and language on the stories of Red Cavalry.]

The Konarmija stories are told against the background of the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-20.1 The military engagements described took place in the period from 3 June 1920 (“Konkin”), when the 1st Cavalry Army broke through the Polish lines at Belaja cerkov', to 31 August 1920 (“Zamost'e”), when the Konarmija were caught in the “Zamość ring”.2 However,...

(The entire section is 8391 words.)

Jan van der Eng (essay date 1984)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Van der Eng, Jan. “Babel's Short Story ‘Zamost'e.’”1 In Signs of Friendship: To Honour A. G. F. van Holk, edited by J. J. van Baak, pp. 419-30. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1984.

[In the following essay, van der Eng examines narrative aspects of “Zamost'e,” particularly the interrelationship of the story's thematic concerns.]

The object of this article is twofold. In the first place it will deal with the erratic thematic pattern of “Zamost'e”: the striking metaphors, the suggestive variations on certain themes and combinations of themes, the wide range of the dramatic events and experiences which may create the impression of several interwoven...

(The entire section is 3245 words.)

Milton Ehre (essay date 1986)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Ehre, Milton. “Red Cavalry.” In Isaac Babel, pp. 63-86. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986.

[In the following essay, Ehre categorizes the major thematic concerns of Red Cavalry and views the collection as Babel's attempt “to create an epic of a decisive historical moment.”]

For all their charm, Odessa Tales still smack of the provincialism of the genre sketch. Red Cavalry is a work of sophisticated maturity. The most important fiction to come out of the Russian Revolution—its only real competitor is a poem, Blok's The Twelve—it can advance a claim to stand as the national epic of that momentous event. Red...

(The entire section is 9719 words.)

Marc Schreurs (essay date 1988)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Schreurs, Marc. “Intertextual Montage in Babel's Konarmija.” In Dutch Contributions to the Tenth International Congress of Slavists, Sofia, September 14-22, 1988: Literature, edited by André van Holk, pp. 277-307. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1988.

[In the following essay, Schreurs analyzes intertextuality as a montage strategy in Red Cavalry, finding allusions to Russian folk epics and nineteenth-century works by Leo Tolstoy and Nikolai Gogol.]


The phenomenon of intertextuality in literary semantics may be approached in two different ways: in a general sense, as an inherent condition of the poetic word, and, in a more...

(The entire section is 10661 words.)

Joe Andrew (essay date September 1989)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Andrew, Joe. “‘Spoil the Purest of Ladies’: Male and Female Imagery in Isaac Babel's Konarmiya.Essays in Poetics 14, no. 2 (September 1989): 1-27.

[In the following essay, Andrew discusses the interplay between male and female characters in Red Cavalry and argues that “an understanding of the female characters, their plot roles, the way they are depicted, and, indeed, what they symbolise, is critical in a broadly-based and systematic analysis of the world of war, revolution and violence” which constitutes the collection.]

The purpose of this article is to examine male and female characters in the thirty-five stories that comprise the...

(The entire section is 11168 words.)

Zsuzsa Hetenyi (essay date 1990)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hetenyi, Zsuzsa. “‘Up’ and ‘Down’, Madonna and Prostitute: The Role of Ambivalence in Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel.” Acta Litteraria Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 32, nos. 3-4 (1990): 309-26.

[In the following essay, Hetenyi investigates the role of ambivalence as well as the significance of Christian mythology and biblical allusions in the stories of Red Cavalry.]

The stories of Isaac Babel, which he combined into a whole in Red Cavalry, are united by the author's outlook, a coherent world view. The heroes, objects, landscapes and events become constituents of a system in the artistic method that I have called “the creation of a...

(The entire section is 7616 words.)

Allan Reid (essay date June 1991)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Reid, Allan. “Isaak Babel's Konarmiia: Meanings and Endings.” Canadian Slavonic Papers 33, no. 2 (June 1991): 139-50.

[In the following essay, Reid notes that over the years there has been little agreement on the style, themes, or genre of Red Cavalry, and examines the structure and function of the ending of the collection.]

Despite its brevity, Isaak Babel's Konarmiia1 has been the victim of a great variety of readings, most of them unsupported textually or extra-textually; few cohere into any intellectually satisfying whole. Fortunately, several recent studies suggest that Babel scholarship—and, in particular, the study...

(The entire section is 4854 words.)

Judith Deutsch Kornblatt (essay date 1992)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch. “Isaak Babel and His Red Cavalry Cossacks.” In The Cossack Hero in Russian Literature: A Study in Cultural Mythology, pp. 107-25. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.

[In the following essay, Kornblatt finds a number of connections between Babel and Nikolai Gogol and analyzes Red Cavalry in light of the Cossack myth.]

In his A History of Russian Literature, D. S. Mirsky praises Taras Bul'ba with an enthusiasm rare among students of Gogol. The novel is “heroic, frankly and openly heroic,” he writes, and “its place in Russian literature is unique—it has had no imitators or followers (except,...

(The entire section is 10228 words.)

David K. Danow (essay date March-June 1994)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Danow, David K. “The Paradox of Red Cavalry.” Canadian Slavonic Papers 36, nos. 1-2 (March-June 1994): 43-54.

[In the following essay, Danow considers the stories of Red Cavalry to be full of depictions of mindless violence coupled with futile attempts to understand such behavior.]

In Red Cavalry the first story sets the tone: horrific violence thrust upon the unsuspecting narrator and reader, accompanied by a question at the end for which there is, and can be, no response. “And now I should wish to know … I should wish to know where in the whole world you could find another father like my father?” asks the daughter whose father has been...

(The entire section is 5858 words.)

Yuri K. Shcheglov (essay date fall 1994)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Shcheglov, Yuri K. “Some Themes and Archetypes in Babel's Red Cavalry.Slavic Review 53, no. 3 (fall 1994): 653-70.

[In the following essay, Shcheglov examines the plot, symbolism, and major themes of “My First Goose,” focusing on the “archetypal patterns,” the “literary motifs of ancient, ritualistic, and mythological origin which serve as a kind of concealed amplifier enhancing the paradigmatic effect of the story's events.”]

It is an established fact that the so-called “Southern” (mainly Odessa-based) school of writers enriched Soviet literature of the 1920s with a number of “European” dimensions neglected by the then dominant...

(The entire section is 9089 words.)

Carol J. Avins (essay date fall 1994)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Avins, Carol J. “Kinship and Concealment in Red Cavalry and Babel's 1920 Diary.Slavic Review 53, no. 3 (fall 1994): 694-710.

[In the following essay, Avins elucidates the relationship between Babel's diary and the stories of Red Cavalry, and she investigates identity and the expression of kinship as key thematic concerns in the book.]

To begin, three encounters, and then some ruminations about two deaths, the veiling of identity and the expression of kinship. The encounters are from the diary Isaac Babel' kept during his service with Budenny's First Cavalry Army in the Polish campaign of 1920; the deaths are those that frame the work...

(The entire section is 8838 words.)

Cynthia Ozick (essay date 8 May 1995)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Ozick, Cynthia. “The Year of Writing Dangerously.” New Republic (8 May 1995): 31-8.

[In the following essay, Ozick investigates autobiographical aspects of the stories in Red Cavalry and elucidates the relationship between the short story collection and his 1920 Diary.]

Identity, at least, is prepared to ask questions.

—Leon Wieseltier

A year or so before the Soviet Union imploded, S.'s mother, my first cousin, whose existence until then had been no more than a distant legend, telephoned from Moscow. “Save my child!” she cried, in immemorial tones. So when S. arrived in...

(The entire section is 6399 words.)

Efraim Sicher (essay date 1995)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Sicher, Efraim. “The Jewishness of Babel.” In Jews in Russian Literature after the October Revolution: Writers and Artists between Hope and Apostasy, pp. 70-111. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

[In the following excerpt, Sicher chronicles Babel's time with Russian Cossacks in the First Cavalry in 1920, maintaining that by exploring “the conflict of Russian and Jew in the writer's identity, we … see how Babel came to form his image of the post-Revolutionary Jewish intellectual, torn between Judaism and Communism, alienated from his past and unable to come to terms with the future.”]

As a war correspondent attached to Budyonny's First...

(The entire section is 10087 words.)

Charles Rougle (essay date 1996)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Rougle, Charles. “Isaac Babel and His Odyssey of War and Revolution.” In Red Cavalry, edited by Charles Rougle, pp. 5-65. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press, 1996.

[In the following excerpt, Rougle provides a stylistic analysis of the stories of Red Cavalry and argues that Babel does not focus on accurate descriptions of the military and historical aspects of the Soviet-Polish War, but rather on “the effect of violence on human life, morals, and culture.”]


Relations between revolutionary Russia and the newly created Republic of Poland had been smoldering for more than...

(The entire section is 8520 words.)

Stephen Brown (essay date 1996-1997)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Brown, Stephen. “The Jew among the Cossacks: Isaac Babel and the Red Cavalry in the Soviet-Polish War of 1920.” Slavonica 3, no. 1 (1996-1997): 29-43.

[In the following essay, Brown discusses the autobiographical nature of the stories of Red Cavalry, asserting that “Babel's depiction of a Cossack Red Cavalry should be viewed not as a mere recounting of the facts of the writer's wartime experience but as an integral part of his pessimistic account of war and revolution.”]

For the historian, Isaac Babel's literary masterpiece, Konarmiia, represents an intriguing blend of historical fact, autobiography and literary fantasy. Konarmiia...

(The entire section is 5770 words.)

Janet Tucker (essay date summer 2000)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Tucker, Janet. “Skaz and Oral Usage as Satirical Devices in Isaak Babel's Red Calvary.1Canadian-American Slavic Studies 34, no. 2 (summer 2000): 201-10.

[In the following essay, Tucker considers Babel's use of skaz and the oral tradition in Red Cavalry as parodic devices.]

Given the density and intricacy of his short story collection Red Cavalry, justifiably regarded as one of the great prose works of twentieth-century Russian literature, Isaak Babel' is notoriously difficult to pin down. Even the briefest of his tales masterfully develops the subject central to all of them: the violence inherent in the October...

(The entire section is 4539 words.)

Robert A. Maguire (essay date 2000)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Maguire, Robert A. “Ekphrasis in Isaak Babel.” In Depictions: Slavic Studies in the Narrative and Visual Arts in Honor of William E. Harkins, edited by Douglas M. Greenfield, pp. 14-23. Dana Point, Calif.: Ardis, 2000.

[In the following essay, Maguire examines Babel's use of ekphrasis, or elaborate description, in the stories of Red Cavalry.]

Toward the beginning of Babel's “Pan Apolek,” one of the longest and most complex stories in Red Cavalry, the narrator, Liutov, pauses to describe a painting he sees hanging on the wall of a fugitive priest's house in Novograd-Volynsk:

I remember: the spiderweb stillness...

(The entire section is 6915 words.)

Igor' Sukhikh (essay date winter 2000-2001)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Sukhikh, Igor'. “About Stars, Blood, People, and Horses.” Russian Studies in Literature 37, no. 1 (winter 2000-2001): 6-26.

[In the following essay, Sukhikh offers a thematic and stylistic examination of Red Cavalry and chronicles the writing of the book, which he asserts happened in “three steps, over three stages of transformation of the raw material of life into a work of art.”]

In the seventh year of the new era (a.d. 1924), Army Commander Budennyi, “having rode into literature on horseback, and criticizing it from the height of his horse” (Gorky), discovered that serving under his command was a slanderer, sadist, and literary degenerate:...

(The entire section is 9158 words.)