Babel

Babel

[bey-buhl, bab-uhl]
Babel, Isaac Emmanuelovich, 1894-1940, Russian writer, b. Odessa. Babel was quick to embrace the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, but in the end it was the regime born of that revolution that destroyed him. He won fame with Odessa Tales (1921-23), written in Russian-Jewish dialect, and Red Cavalry (1926, tr. 1929), dramatic stories based on his life in the army (he had concealed his Jewish identity) and employing the racy slang of the Kuban Cossacks with whom he rode. The original journal from which this book was written, 1920 Journal, was published in Russia as the Soviet Union disintegrated and translated into English in 1995. A brilliant litarary stylist, he wrote a uniquely terse and forceful prose, combining astringent Jewish irony with Russian caricature, lyricism with brutality, and comedy with bleakly grave subject matter. He also wrote the novel Benia Krik (1927) about an Odessan Jewish gangster, and turned to drama with Sunset (1928) and Maria (1935). Babel was criticized by the Communist party during the 1930s, arrested in 1939, and executed in 1940 after a 20-minute trial. After Stalin's death, some of his works were republished in censored form in the Soviet Union. Translations of his best stories appear in Collected Stories (1955) and You Must Know Everything (1969). The Complete Works of Isaac Babel, edited by his daughter Nathalie, was published in English translation in 2001.

See memoir by his companion, Antonina Pirozhkova (tr. 1996); biography by J. Charyn (2005); studies by P. Carden (1972), R. W. Hallett (1972), J. E. Falen (1974), D. Mendelson (1982), M. Ehre (1986), and R. Mann (1994).

Babel [Heb.,=confused], in the Bible, place where Noah's descendants (who spoke one language) tried to build a tower reaching up to heaven to make a name for themselves. For this presumption the speech of the builders was confused, thus ending the project. The story was perhaps originally an etiological tale explaining the diversity of languages and cultures, but, due to Israel's experience of the exile, now contains significant polemic against the presumption of Babylon, which is Babel in Hebrew.

Ancient Middle Eastern city. The city's ruins are located about 55 mi (89 km) south of Baghdad, near the modern city of Al-Hsubdotillah, Iraq. Babylon was one of the most famous cities in antiquity. Probably first settled in the 3rd millennium BC, it came under the rule of the Amorite kings around 2000 BC. It became the capital of Babylonia and was the chief commercial city of the Tigris and Euphrates river system. Destroyed by Sennacherib in 689 BC, it was later rebuilt. It attained its greatest glory as capital of the Neo-Babylonian empire under Nebuchadrezzar II (r. 605–circa 561 BC). Alexander the Great, who took the city in 331 BC, died there. Evidence of its topography comes from excavations, cuneiform texts, and descriptions by the Greek historian Herodotus. Most of the ruins are from the city built by Nebuchadrezzar. The largest city in the world at the time, it contained many temples, including the great temple of Marduk with its associated ziggurat, which was apparently the basis for the story of the Tower of Babel. The Hanging Gardens, a simulated hill of vegetation-clad terracing, was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

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Babel (בָּבֶל; Bavel) (بابل; Babel) is the name used in the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an for the city of Babylon (Akkadian Babilu), notable in Genesis as the location of the Tower of Babel.

In Gen. 11:9, the name of Babel is etymologized by association with the Hebrew verb balal, "to confuse or confound": Balal is regarded as a contraction of earlier *balbal. The name bab-ilu in Akkadian means "gate of god" (from bab "gate" + ilu "god"). The word bab-el can also be seen to mean "gate of god" (from bab "gate" + el "god").

Babel is mentioned in Genesis 10:10 as the home city of Nimrod:

[10] And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel (Persia), and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. [11] Out of that land went forth Asshur, and built Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, [12] And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city. (KJV)

According to Genesis 11:1–9, humankind, after the deluge, traveled from the mountain where the ark had rested, and settled in "a plain in the land of Shinar." Here, they attempted to build a city and a tower whose top would be in the Heavens, the Tower of Babel.

The attempt to build the city of Babel with its tower, caused God to respond. He confused the language of the people, ultimately halting the project, and scattered them across the earth.

Babel features in the prophecies of Jeremiah, and Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem is told in 2 Kings. The Book of Daniel is set at time of the Babylonian captivity. Such later references to Babel are normally translated into the more familiar Greek form "Babylon".

The Book of Mormon, a book of scripture used by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, features a story about a family who prayed that their language would not be confounded. Their prayers were answered and they were led to the Americas.

References

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