Short Story Cycles



Konarmija (Red Cavalry) is not simply a collection of stories, nor is it merely a series of sketches, but it is a planned short story cycle, by definition what Forrest Ingram calls “. .. a set of stories linked to each other in such a way as to maintain a balance between the individuality of each of the stories, and necessities of the larger unit.”‘ There are many features that constitute a short story cycle; one of them is the completeness of each story as a unit by itself, containing thematic and structural unity from within. Yet, in addition, the stories put together maintain an even higher unity: each story forms a link in the chain which forms a higher reality, a more complex unit – a cycle.

… James Falen calls Konarmija an “interconnected cycle” but does not go into a discussion of the genre of Konarmija as a cycle. He observes that there is no single structural pattern. I should like to submit that there are several patterns, which are constant and are necessary in a cycle, as Ingram further contends that “an arranged cycle consists of stories which an author or editor-author has brought together to illuminate or comment upon one another by juxtaposition or association.” According to him some of the criteria to look for in a cycle are repetition of a single theme, recurrence of a single character or set of

… Equally disturbing to the author is the senseless killing by both the Tsarist Whites and the Revolutionaries. In”Prishchepa,” the main character can be seen as a link in the chain of humans who form the cavalry and render it into a unit: having lost his parents to the Tsarist Whites, Prishchepa “executes” every neighbor who had helped himself to any of his parents’ belongings – killings as senseless as the killing of the Old Jew or the woman in “Sol’.” Babel presents a gallery of characters, each with his own particular personality, and each contributing to the general character of the riders. The tragic rhetoric in describing some of the riders is the “other side” of Babel’s romantic pathos, but the pathos of the romantic epic becomes pathetic rhetoric. In his beast-like heroes Babel finds human and even humane traits: Afonka Bida who misses his dead horse; the tragic Grischuka facing inevitable death; Trunov choosing to die in order to save his company. Babel’s stylistic device of depicting kindness and brutality in close proximity – romantic pathos together with tragic rhetoric – is another unifying element of his Konarmija cycle.


Ross, R. H. (1981). The Unity of Babel’s “Konarmija.” The South Central Bulletin, 41(4), 114–119. Link:


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