NRC Leesclub Live: The Red Cavalry, by Isaak Babel
A valued tradition of the festival: the NRC Reading Club Live. Visitors read a book and give their opinion. But first we give the floor to the panel, consisting of Elsbeth Etty, Bas Heijne and guest editor Sana Valiulina, and hosted by Michel Krielaars, head of the book pages of NRC Handelsblad. This time we read The Red Cavalry from the collected stories by Isaak Babel.
Isaak Babel (1894-1940) has many admirers, also in the Netherlands, from writers Tommy Wieringa to Arnon Grunberg, from book critics Arjan Peters (Volkskrant) to Michel Krielaars (NRC Handelsblad). His Red Cavalry Stories are among the master pieces in Russian literature. The stories were recently published anew in an elegant new translation, in a hardback edition by Van Oorschot Publishers.
In the Red Cavalry Stories Isaak Babel wrote about his experiences during the Polish-Russian war, to which he was sent by his literary mentor Gorki 'to discover real life'. The stories are full of blood and random killings, told in a down-to-earth style, and that's what makes them so penetrating.
Isaak Babel supported the Bolshevist revolution but he couldn't and didn't want to close his eyes for its sometimes gruesome consequences and that's exactly what he wrote about. That's why the police and the censors were after him all the time. He was arrested in 1939 and sentenced to death and executed on Stalin's orders.
"You get into a trance by Isaak Babel's incredible style." (Arjan Peters, Volkskrant)
"All in all Babel is the artist convincing the reader of a completely new vision of the world." (New York Review of Books)
Don't forget to read the book, and bring it with you!