Books: Too Silent for Stalin

ISAAC BABEL: YOU MUST KNOW EVERYTHING. Edited by Nathalie Babel. Translated by Max Hayward. 283 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $5.95.

More words have been published about Isaac Babel than by him. It is a situation that would have greatly amused the Russian-Jewish short-short-story writer whose work exemplifies Pushkin's golden rule that "precision and brevity are the prime qualities of prose." As a writer who could be economical without sacrificing impact, Babel compares favorably with Chekhov. Even Hemingway, one of the most ruthless wringers of prose, conceded that Babel could "clot the curds"...

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