This diary by the famed twentieth-century Russian writer recounts Babel's experiences with the Cossack cavalry during the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1920. The basis for Red Cavalry, Babel's best-known work, it records the devastation of the war, the extreme cruelty of the Polish and Red armies alike toward the Jewish population in the Ukraine and eastern Poland, and Babel's own conflicted role as both Soviet revolutionary and Jew.
Brought to light in the last years of the glasnost and finally translated into English, Babel's 1920 Diary ... is an astounding book. In sparse, artfully fractured language, it documents an orgy of ethnic violence and provides a window on a culture which in 20 short years would be extinct ... Isaac Babel's 1920 Diary is a gripping visit to a lost world. Few readers will return from it unfazed.