Isaac Babel’s 1920 Diary was published in 1990. Since then, critics have mined this texts for hints of Babel’s later short stories, particularly those in Red Cavalry collection, without for the most part pondering the diary as a genre, or diaries as distinct ego-documents. This talk will propose an experimental re-reading of Isaac Babel’s 1920 Diary in line with recent theoretical musings on reading diaries as ego-documents. It will attempt to read this text without external knowledge of the author or his later work, and trace the author's painful musings on his ideology (Bolshevism), on his lapsed religion (Judaism) and on the specific background of Odessa middle- and upper-middle-class Jews in the early years of the 20th century.
Sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Center for Jewish Studies, Harvard University.
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