‘The Story Of A Horse’ by Isaac Babel

The Story Of A Horse by Isaac Babel, 1926

The magic trick:

Shifting the reader’s view of the central conflict by having the narrator corroborate the main character’s point of view at the end

It’s easy to view Khlebnikov as a buffoon for much of this story. He’s proud, he’s petty, he’s vindictive, he’s hung up on what might appear to be an inessential detail of war.

And then we get the closing section. Suddenly, our view changes. The narrator provides Khlebnikov with a sort of corroboration. He admits that Khlebnikov had been “very similar to me in character.”

Our implicit trust in the narrator leaves us conflicted now. Maybe Khlebnikov wasn’t the buffoon. Maybe the hypocrisy of the army was the problem the entire time.

And that’s quite a trick on Babel’s part.

The selection:

“What a fool you are!” the military commissar said to him, and tore it up. “Come back after dinner and you and I will have a little talk.”

“I don’t need your little talk!” Khlebnikov answered, trembling. “You and I are finished!”

As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s