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This report is taken from PN Review 92, Volume 19 Number 6, July - August 1993.

The Past and Likely Future of the 'thick Journal' W.L. Webb
This talk was given at a conference on the future of literary magazines in Russia and east Central Europe at St Antony's College, Oxford, 15 March 1993.

I went to Moscow in the spring of 1987 to observe glasnost and all that was new and wonderful, but was struck first by the archaic look of that Russian literary world. The truly Bulgakovian scene in the dining room of the Writers' Union, for example, dense with gossip and the busy sturgeon-filled forks of the bemedalled Beskudnikovs, Nepremovas and Poprikhins of the day, which might have been Bulgakov's day or some still earlier time.

Then there were the offices of the 'thick journals'. At Novy Mir, it was at least a powerful sense of a relatively recent past - of the ideological victories and defeats of the 1950s and 1960s, with Tvardovsky's ghost hovering over his big chair at the editorial conference table. But entering the antechamber of the offices of Znamya, you were - probably still are - faced with three doors, each with a quaintly decorated arts-and-crafts-period panel in stained glass: POETRY, says the one to the right; to the left, FICTION; and ahead, PROSE & Cloakroom, presumably a more junior editorship. Nothing like this, or the aura of settled authority that went with it, survives in our world.

At Moskva, one of the dodgier places ideologically, a visiting literary editor opened a door at four in the afternoon to be confronted with what looked ...


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