King of Odessa

Trade Paper – $17.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-2426-4

Trade Cloth – $24.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-1992-5
Format Unavailable
Publication Date
May 2003
Page Count
256 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

King of Odessa

A Novel of Isaac Babel
Robert A. Rosenstone

Famed writer Isaac Babel returned to his colorful hometown of Odessa in the summer of 1936, pining for a daughter living abroad and hoping to pen one last homage to his past. This would be Babel's last visit to Odessa; four years later, he was arrested as a spy and executed.

For more than six decades, the letters and postcards Babel sent to his mother and sister were the only record of this trip. In King of Odessa, Robert A. Rosenstone imagines the lost manuscript Babel wrote during those weeks. Rosenstone's Babel is concerned with more than literature as he mulls over a deal with the secret police and attempts to help a condemned prisoner escape the Soviet Union-or is it Babel who intends to escape? Babel's search for a way out leads him to reflect on his past: the horrifying pogrom of 1905, his rides with the Cossacks that inspired Red Calvary, and, above all, his complicated relationships with women. Mixing historical fact with gifted storytelling, Rosenstone captures Babel's lively wit, his disenchantment with fame and the Soviet system, and his infectious charm. The result is a hard-boiled thriller, a suspenseful love story, and a captivating portrait of a great writer.

About the Author

Robert A. Rosenstone is a professor of history at the California Institute of Technology. His works include Romantic Revolutionary: A Biography of John Reed (Knopf, 1975), the basis for the film Reds; Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to Our Idea of History (Harvard, 1995); and Mirror in the Shrine (Harvard, 1988).
"A fresh and fascinating debut that manages both to evoke the topsy-turvy atmosphere of Stalinist Russia and to put together a pretty fair replica of Babel's prose."
"[H]ow gracefully Rosenstone's novel ropes a reader in, salting the story with just enough flashbacks to enthrall Babel cognoscenti and the Babel ignorami alike. It's an astonishingly confident first novel from a historian with a whole new career ahead of him." --San Francisco Chronicle
"In an impressive effort of literary boldness, historian Robert A. Rosenstone fills in some of the blanks in Babel's life and work in a first novel, King of Odessa. With irreverent humor, textured descriptions and sensitive attention to detail, Rosenstone imaginatively constructs Babel's world." --The Jewish Week