Isaak Babel's “Odessa Tales”: Inventing Lost Time and the Search for Cultural Identity Academic Article uri icon


  • Babel's “Odessa Tales” have not been previously analyzed as a cycle of all nine stories (rather than the four included in Soviet collections of the writer's work). This essay examines the entire cycle in their historical context, disentangling the stories from the Odessa myth, of which they have become an integral part. I argue that the “Odessa Tales” should be seen as contributions to an already existing “Odessa text,” and that Babel manipulates cultural memory to form a postrevolutionary cultural identity. I follow the writer's development from nostalgia for a vanished past in the early stories to accommodation with Soviet reality in the final stories, showing how the concept of Time changes over the years from 1921 to 1937.

publication date

  • January 1, 2018