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Isaak Babel
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    (July 13, 1894-January 27, 1940)
    Born in Odessa, Ukraine
    Wrote the short story collections 'Red Cavalry' (1926) and 'Odessa Tales' (1926) and the plays 'Sunset' (1927) and 'Maria' (1935)
    Executed by firing squad during the Great Purge
    He looked like Jason Alexander.
    To create the working-class background desirable in a Soviet writer, he claimed his father was an 'impoverished shopkeeper.' (Actually, his father was a successful dealer in farming equipment and owned a large warehouse.)
    He fathered a son out of wedlock.
    He conducted an affair with the wife of secret police chief Nikolai Yezhov, who was probably second only to Stalin on the list 'People you should not cuckold during a purge.'
    His trial and execution were kept so secret that his estranged first wife, living in exile in Paris, did not know he was dead until another Soviet author told her in the mid-1950s.
    After his arrest, he became a 'nonperson,' with his works removed from libraries and his name removed from reference books.
    Even after his rehabilitation, his play 'Maria' was controversial enough that it would not be performed in Russia until after the fall of Communism.
    He was unable to attend the local high school because it had a quota for Jewish students.
    Several of his early short stories were declared obscene by the Czarist police (1916-17), but he escaped punishment, once because the courthouse was burned down by revolutionaries, destroying his records.
    His realistic depiction of the violence of war in 'Red Cavalry' angered the Soviet Army and was published only through the intervention of Maxim Gorky.
    He was tortured by the secret police, the NKVD.
    After his arrest, the NKVD destroyed his unpublished manuscripts.
    He was officially rehabilitated during the Khruschev era.
    Admirers of his work included Boris Pasternak and Jorge Luis Borges.

Credit: C. Fishel

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