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The Enigma of Isaac BabelBiography, History, Context$
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Gregory Freidin

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804759038

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804759038.001.0001

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Babel, Flaubert, and the Rapture of Perception

Babel, Flaubert, and the Rapture of Perception

(p.139) 7 Babel, Flaubert, and the Rapture of Perception
The Enigma of Isaac Babel

Robert Alter

Stanford University Press

This chapter focuses on the emergence of a modern literary sensibility, juxtaposing the aestheticizing gaze implied in Flaubert's le style indirect libre with Babel's first-person narrator. Babel, whose experience encompassed considerably more in the way of historical horrors than Flaubert's, remained ultimately an enthusiast, an enthralled observer of life's spectacle, and that enthusiasm vividly informs the celebratory moments of his fiction. Enthusiasm is an attitude quite alien to Flaubert's profoundly disenchanted imagination of the world. What Flaubert was able to show Babel, as well as a number of other writers of the earlier twentieth century, was the possibility of breaking out of the limits of conventional aesthetic categories through a studied descriptive art of fiction.

Keywords:   Isaac Babel, Flaubert, modern literary sensibility, aesthetic categories, fiction

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