David McDuff, translator of Isaac Babel's Red Cavalry and Other Stories (1994), describes the author as a shadowy figure. His life, which is for the most part undocumented, ended obscurely with his arrest by the Stalinist secret policy and his death in 1940 at the age of 46.
His daughter Nathalie was ten years old and living in France at the time. In her introduction to The Lonely Years, a collection of stories and correspondence published in 1964, she says that she grew up
...wishing that some day, somewhere, a door would open and my father would come in. We would recognize each other immediately, and without seeming surprised, without letting him catch his breath, I would say, "Well, here you are at last. We've been puzzled about you for so long; although you left behind much love and devotion, you bequeathed us very few facts. It's so good to have you here. do sit down and tell us what happened."
© Linda Leith