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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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Toward a Typology of “Debut” Narratives

Toward a Typology of “Debut” Narratives

Babel, Nabokov, and Others

(p.149) 8 Toward a Typology of “Debut” Narratives
The Enigma of Isaac Babel

Alexander Zholkovsky

Stanford University Press

This chapter sketches out a framework of invariant parameters that inform fictionalized treatments of “creative debuts,” drawing primarily on Nabokov's “First Poem” and Babel's “My First Fee”/“Answer to Inquiry” with occasional reference to Chekhov's, Andreev's, and Sholom Aleichem's stories. Despite obvious differences (for example, the absence in Nabokov's text of the “sexual initiation” motif, so central to Babel's), the two stories share several constitutive topoi: semi-ironic first-person reminiscing mode; acknowledgement of juvenile imitativeness; role of parent figures; subversive Bloomian play with literary “fathers”; and some others.

Keywords:   Isaac Babel, Nabokov, Chekhov, Andreev, Sholom Aleichem, First Poem, My First Fee, creative debuts

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