5: Oral history excerpt, Andrei Malaev-Babel speaking about his grandfather, Isaac Babel, 2011.
Isaac Babel’s grandson, Andrei Malaev-Babel, spoke about his grandfather with the Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project. In this excerpt of his interview, Malaev-Babel discusses what he calls Babel’s “mission to tell the truth.”
Suggested Activity: Play this excerpt for the students and ask them: What do you think Malaev-Babel means by “truth”? Remind them that Red Cavalry was based on Babel’s personal experiences. Then ask them to reread “My First Goose” and discuss, in pairs, the following: 1. What uncomfortable “truths” does Babel appear to be revealing about his own society in this story? 2. What personal or social risks might the writer have been taking in order to gather the material used in this story? 3. If they were to write a short story about a current concern (perhaps at their school or in their community), what kind of research would they need to do in order to gather material to reveal “truths”? A follow-up exercise might involve challenging students to do some research by exploring a social situation they don’t know intimately, and then asking them to write (either fiction or non-fiction) about it.
Source: Andrei Malaev-Babel, interview by David Schlitt (Wexler Oral History Project, July 5, 2012). For the complete interview with Malaev-Babel: https://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/collections/oral-histories/interviews/woh-fi-0000123/andrei-malaev-babel-2011.