BABEL, ISAAK EMMANUILOVICH. 1894-1940.
Autograph Letter Signed ("I. Babel"), 1 p, 16mo, Moscow, March 11, 1929, discussing a painting, in ink on paper torn from a notebook, some soiling and wear at edges.
RARE AUTOGRAPH LETTER FROM ISAAK BABEL, to K.P. Rotov (1902-1959), a popular Soviet cartoonist who contributed to Krokodil and Pravda and illustrated numerous children's books:
Please be so kind and send me that new painting that everybody has been talking about for a whole month. It's of Odessa and this, you know, is an ever alive memory. Don't forget!
M[oscow] March 11, 1929
The picture he refers to was an illustration for a new edition of Odessa Tales (1925) that was never published.
Born in the Moldavanka section of Odessa, Isaak Babel is today considered one of the greatest of Soviet Jewish writers. Maxim Gorky was an early mentor; Boris Pasternak, a great admirer. According to Jorge Luis Borges, "Salt", one of Babel's greatest stories, "enjoys a glory seemingly reserved for poems and rarely attained by prose." He is perhaps best known for Red Cavalry, which Sergei Eisenstein wanted to film. Unfortunately, he was also one of the most tragic figures in Russian literature.
Babel's letters and manuscripts are of greatest rarity. He was arrested as "an enemy of the people" during Stalin's Great Purge, accused of a long-time affair with the wife of NKVD chief Nikolai Yezhov. Under interrogation, he confessed to being a counter-revolutionary Trotskyite terrorist and a foreign spy and was shot on January 27, 1940. Finally, in 1954, Nikita Khruschev rehabilitated him publicly, on a single, typed half-sheet of paper: "The sentence of the military collegium dated 26 January 1940 concerning Babel, I.E., is revoked on the basis of newly discovered circumstances and the case against him is terminated in the absence of elements of a crime." ABPC lists only one Babel manuscript (sold Sotheby's, London, 1993) and no letters.
- Estimate should read: $6,000 - 9,000.