Only the moon, clasping in her blue hands her round, bright, carefree face, wandered like a vagrant outside the window. (Babel) (The moon is feminine here because translated from Russian) Stalin may have had good reasons to have the author of the Red Cavalry shot. But to say that he was guilty of passing the secrets of the Soviet air force to Malraux was preposterous, specially when Babel had no way of learning any secrets and what would Malraux, a communist at the time, do with them? Babel was an unlikely artist. And it was this unlikeliness, in fact two worlds reaching out to each other, that made him so attractive. The American critic, Raymond Rosenthal, says: For the artist is always a special case. But what happens when two special cases combine to create a third? Babel was born and brought up in the ghetto of the Czarist Odessa. This meant he learnt Russian. This also meant he was a Hasidic Jew. The first attracted him, but also closed its doors upon him. The second gave him security. Above all, it gave him identity. But he felt it like a net of chains, binding him down. He wanted to break out of the chains of his own identity. The October Revolution seemed to break both the constraints. The Jews were recognised as a separate nationality, completely equal to others. Yiddish had equality with other languages. But Babel chose to write in Russian because he wanted to get out of the Odessan ghetto, not just physically but also spiritually. He joined the Red Army and was assigned as a commissar to the cavalry corps of Buddenys army fighting in southwest. Here he wrote the stories collected under the title of Red Cavalry, considered his best work. It is a strange human trait that, often, those who fought for their own freedom, then wish to deny it to others. Poland was a great power in the seventeenth century, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. But, unwilling to change its feudal structure, it lost ground to its neighbours until it ceased to exist as a state in the late eighteenth century. Restored by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, it wanted its empire back too. Its socialist leader, Pilsudski, thus led it into a war with the Soviet Union in order to recover its lands in Byelorussia and Ukraine. Buddeny was fighting on the southern front, which covered the entire Jewish Pale. As a result, the Jews paid a heavy price for the campaign. Babel fought here. He described one scene from his own experience in one of the stories of the Red Cavalry. An officer of the Cavalry had been billeted in a house of Novgorod, where I found a pregnant woman and two red-haired, scraggy-necked Jews. A third, huddled to the wall with his head covered up, was already asleep. The officer lay next to them, but the sleep was uneasy. At midnight, he woke up and the woman offered to move him to another room. She raised her thin legs and rounded belly from the floor and removed the blanket from the sleeper. Lying on his back was an old man, a dead old man. His throat had been torn out and his face cleft in two,-----'Good sir, said the Jewess, shaking up the feather bed, 'the Poles cut his throat, and he begging them 'kill me in the yard so that my daughter shant see me die. It was in that room that Babel saw the moon peering through the window. Babel disappeared in 1939 and his literary works were withdrawn from the shops. He was rehabilitated only in 1954, but few of his works were published even then. Ilya Ehrenburg, the author of the Storm and the miraculous survivor of many purges, writes in his memoirs: Life turned out to be no May meadow for him. But to the end, he was faithful to the ideals of justice, internationalism, humanism. He understood the revolution and recognised it as a pledge of future happiness. But the French Marxist, Charles Bettelheim, concluded a study of the Soviet Union with: The Russian Revolution was too rich to be contained in the Bolshevik framework. The writer is a retired ambassador.