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Isaac Babel Quotes

Isaac Babel
  • Mini Bio
  • Name: Isaac Emmanuilovich Babel
  • Born: 13th July 1894, Odessa, Russian Empire
  • Died: 27th January 1940, Butyrka prison, Moscow, USSR
  • Occupation: Journalist, essayist and playwright
  • Famous for: Red Cavalry and Odessa Tales both published in 1926
  • Influenced by: Ivan Turgenev, Guy de Maupassant and Maxim Gorky
  • Controversy: He had a long standing affair with Yevgenia Feigenberg who was the wife of Nikolai Yezhov who was the chief of the feared Soviet Secret Police the NKVD
  • Trivia: Although Babel was married to Yevgenia Gronfein he lived from 1934 until his arrest in 1939 with his common law wife Antonina Pirojkova. It was not until the 1990's that Antonia discovered that he had been executed in 1940

"No iron spike can pierce a human heart as icily as a period in the right place"

Isaac Babel

"They gallop forward with their skirts tucked up, covered in dust, with heir big breasts, all whores, but comrades, whores because they’re comrades, that's all that matters, they're there to serve everybody"

Isaac Babel

"Who should we model ourselves? Just look at the way Stalin forges his speech, how chiselled his spare words are, how full of muscular strength"

Isaac Babel

"You won't have time to read the books that are truly worthwhile. There are about a hundred books that every educated person needs to read"

Isaac Babel

"When a phrase is born, it is both good and bad at the same time. The secret of its success rests in a crux that is barely discernible"

Isaac Babel

"A well-crafted story doesn’t need to resemble real life. Life itself tries with all its might to resemble a well-crafted story"

Isaac Babel

"The vagrant moon trailed through the town and I tagged along, nurturing within me unfulfillable dreams and dissonant songs"

Isaac Babel

"In our day, bad taste is no longer a personal defect; it’s a crime. Even worse, bad taste is counter revolution"

Isaac Babel

"A well-thought-out story doesn’t need to resemble real life. Life itself tries with all its might to resemble a well-crafted story"

Isaac Babel

"For me the whole world is like a gigantic theater in which I am the only spectator without opera glasses"

Isaac Babel

"If the world could write itself, it would write like Tolstoy"

Isaac Babel

"A phrase is born into the world good and bad at the same time. The secret rests in a barely perceptible turn"

Isaac Babel

"We are born for the pleasure of work, fighting, love, we are born for that and nothing else"

Isaac Babel

"You're trying to live without enemies. That's all you think about, not having enemies"

Isaac Babel

"The right to write badly was the privilege we widely used"

Isaac Babel
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Isaac Babel Biography

Isaac Babel was a celebrated Russian author who penned short stories and plays from his experience and inspiration working as a long time journalist for various publications including his mentor Maxim Gorky. Literary critics such as Lionel Trilling have hailed Babels work as masterpieces of Soviet literature.

Gallows humour and master of the understatement were two traits that littered his work, indeed on the night of his arrest Isaac Babel was quoted as saying to the arresting officers "So, I guess you don’t get much sleep, do you?".

During the 1930's when Joseph Stalins grip onto power was tightening many writers changed their styles to suit the dictators whims, this led Babel to comment "I have become the master of a new genre: the genre of silence" as he withdrew more and more from publishing his works.

He liked to live dangerously, his long affair with Yevgenia Feigenberg who was the wife of the chief of the NKVD Nikolai Yezhov subjected him to being followed although not arrested.

Even during the bloody purge between 1936 and 1938 that Yezhov seemed to take pleasure out of, he remained free but under close scrutiny. In an ironic twist that you would expect to come from the pen of the great writer himself, Yezhov was arrested and implicated Babel as a co-conspirator and enemy of the state.

He became another victim of the great purge that was carried out by Yezhov's successor Lavrentiy Beria who sought and gained Joseph Stalins approval for Babel's trial and subsequent execution by gunshot. From the imagination of celebrated writers come some of the great one liners so this is my compilation of 15 of the best Isaac Babel quotes

Quotes About Isaac Babel

The author Michael Gorham considers his inability to follow the party line: "Babel’s civil war narratives highlight discursive fissures far more than they celebrate the heroes of Budennyi’s First Cavalry Division"

The Russian critic Viktor Shklovskii spoke comparitively: "More has probably been written about Babel’s identity than about any other aspect of him"

The writer George Saunders reveals he is a source for inspiration: "When I read him, it recalibrates my ear. It reminds me of the difference between an OK sentence and a really masterful sentence. Babel does it for me"

The author Knut Andreas Grimstad was impressed to say: "With his harrowing experiences of the Russian-Polish campaign, Babel emerges as a reporter-of-the-senses beyond compare"

The literary critic Gabriele Annan looked back and said: "Babel witnessed the last battles ever to be fought on horseback and with sabres"

The writer James Salter summed him up thus:: "He has the three essentials of greatness: style, structure, and authority"

The author Jerome Charyn was gripped with intrigue by his writing: "Babel is dangerous; he disturbs our dreams. He’s cruel and tender, like some kind of crazy witch. Each of his best stories—“The King” or “Di Grasso” or “Guy de Maupassant”—is like a land mine and a lesson in writing; it explodes page after page with a wonder that’s so hard to pin down"

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