Raising Hell and Falling for Crooks

Smith Babel Dralyuk.jpg

On Monday, February 26, I’m giving a talk on my translations of Isaac Babel’s stories at Smith College. I hope my spiel will be worth my hosts’ time. I certainly don’t want them to feel cheated… Speaking of cheating, whenever I think of Babel’s Odessan crooks, it’s to the soundtrack of Soviet criminal ballads (blatnye pesni) of the 1920s, about which I’ve written before. The one perking me up at the moment may be the simplest of all: “Mama, I’ve Fallen for a Crook!” (“Мама, я жулика люблю!”) The title tells most of the story: a young woman is in love with a thief. How will she and her paramour support themselves? Simple: the crook will rob and steal, and she’ll peddle the ill-gotten goods. Here is a recording of the song by the legendary Romani singer and guitarist Alyosha Dimitrievich (1913-1986), a star of the Paris cabarets:

As a bonus, here is another recording of Dimitrievich, performing with his friend Yul Brynner:


5 thoughts on “Raising Hell and Falling for Crooks

      1. The Odessa Stories are on the way and I look forward to reading them! Thanks, Boris, I’m glad you think my blog is contributing something, I really enjoy writing and researching it.
        Have a nice evening!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hello Boris, just to let you know that I finished the Odessa Stories yesterday and that I already look forward to reading them again in a year or so. Your excellent translation shows your love for Babel. And what’s not to love? The stories are exquisite. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

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