Exploring Babel's towering talent
Friday 14 April 1995
As any Odessite will tell you: hustle like mad, keep your head down when the bullets fly, and above all, enjoy. This would certainly have been the advice of novelist Isaac Babel, who grew up in this leafy, crumbling Black Sea port a century ago. David Vaughan's How Things Were Done in Odessa (5.45pm R3) shows that little has changed between Babel's day and ours, and that the culture which nurtured Babel, Sholom "Fiddler on the Roof" Aleichem, and a dozen other literary lights is still its anarchic, extravagant self. Babel studied the violin in what he called "a Wunderkind factory for Jewish dwarfs"; Vaughan reports that the factory, though less Jewish, is still there, pumping out first-rate musicians who have to subsist on the local equivalent of $1 per day.
Vaughan is wary of the drug mafiosi who now rule the roost, but he garners fascinating memories of their predecessors, whom the Communists never managed to liquidate. He also mingles with the black-market money changers, watching as representatives of the banks turn up to check the latest rates.
And he hangs out in the sleazy Moldavanka district which Babel eternalised in his Collected Stories (Penguin £6.99), where people still make deals, music and love, like there's no tomorrow.
Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 2 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 3 Woman blinded as a child can see again after hitting her head on a coffee table
- 4 Paul Hollywood: Police asked if I wanted them to arrest Mary Berry for vandalism after she 'defaced' my car
- 5 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
JK Rowling's Harry Potter Halloween stories: Dolores Umbridge was based on real person she 'disliked intensely'
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Cumberbacklash: Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange riles Marvel fans
Best horror films of all time
Benedict Cumberbatch describes the 'explosive' Sherlock sex scene that will never happen
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything