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This report is taken from PN Review 45, Volume 12 Number 1, September - October 1985.

Reading Magazines (Partisan Review, the New Criterion) Nicolas Tredell

Partisan Review celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1984. But though founded in 1934, it began as a pro-Communist organ, and did not break from the party until 1937: the anniversary issue reprints its first editorial statement after the break, which affirms an intention to be both 'revolutionary in tendency' and 'unequivocally independent'-a contradictory project, perhaps. What is the magazine like today? It publishes fiction and poetry -Rachel Hadas, Craig Raine, John Ashbery, have all appeared in recent issues-and literary criticism, but cultural and political concerns-with literature as one, important, aspect of these- dominate in the magazine. Its ideological position can roughly be characterized as left-liberal-more liberal, now, than left: anti-Marxist, pro-nuclear weapons, pro-dissidents in Russia and Eastern Europe, pro-Israel.

The anniversary number itself is a bulky double issue that aims to bring together a range of Partisan Review contributors past and present. So we have, for instance, extracts from Lionel Trilling's notebooks (interesting for, among other things, their remarks on his professional difficulties as 'a Jew, a Marxist, a Freudian' at Columbia University in the 1930s); Mary McCarthy on Hannah Arendt; Norman Mailer, represented by an execrable poem. Several writers are quick to drive nails, even if regretfully, into the coffin of socialism: for Daniel Bell, 'the death of socialism . . . is the most tragic political fact of the twentieth century'; Nathan Glazer states that, in serious intellectual terms, 'Marxism and all its variants are in ruins'; Gerald Graff claims that Marxists 'can see as ...


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