From the mid-19th century to the present, Russian writers and thinkers have tirelessly debated human life’s essential nature. Is life defined by the countless ordinary events or the few extraordinary ones? Should one focus on the forgettable prosaic moments or the memorable dramatic ones that make a good story? Which sentiment comes closer to the truth: the proverbial curse, “May you live in interesting times!” or Wordsworth’s enthusiasm that “to be young” during the French Revolution “was very heaven”?
Isaac Babel's Guide to Life and Death
The great Russian Jewish writer was caught between revolution and daily life, Bolsheviks and Jews, a desire to kill and an inability to pull the trigger. Did he ever choose?