Literary Magazines

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Literary Magazines


periodical publications, most often monthly, that acquaint the reader with new original or translated literature and with news of literary life; they also mold public opinion.

In addition to the dominant section of fiction (not less than one-third of the space), literary magazines usually have sections or columns on literary criticism and public affairs, reviews of new books, and reports of cultural news. As a rule, these magazines contain articles on economics, sociology, history, and current politics (hence many literary magazines are also sociopolitical) and frequently devote attention to other arts. As “thick” magazines, literary magazines differ from weeklies that include fiction and reviews of fiction in that literary magazines are larger in volume, publish a wider variety of genres, and are more comprehensive in critical analyses. Literary magazines differ from anthologies, serial collections, and semiannual and annual publications with similar content in that their information is more up-to-date and regular and the problems of the literary struggle are more timely. Literary magazines assume that their readers have a special interest in fiction and the literary process and some (although not necessarily professional) literary training.

Russia. Literary magazines were founded in Russia in the late 18th century and were modeled on Western European magazines. The first condition for the successful publication of literary magazines is a readership that is active in public life and interested in literature. Such a readership was molded by the moralistic-satirical publications of N. I. Novikov, the literary collections of A. P. Sumarokov and M. M. Kheraskov, and the monthlies of I. A. Krylov and N. M. Karamzin. The very word zhurnal (magazine or journal) was brought into use by Karamzin, who undertook the publication of Moskovskii zhurnal (Moscow Magazine), in which the characteristic makeup of literary magazines took shape for the first time: “Russian works in verse and prose,” “short foreign works in translation,” “critical analyses of Russian books,” and “news of plays produced in theaters and descriptions of various events.” Karamzin’s publication Aglaia (1794–95) was the first example of the numerous Russian literary anthologies which until the 1830’s coexisted closely with literary magazines and supplemented them.

In the atmosphere of patriotic and cultural uplift caused by the Patriotic War of 1812, when literary life was increasingly saturated with political content, magazines and anthologies became a focus of the public spirit and a platform for Decembrist writers. The attitudes of the revolutionary dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry) were expressed by the magazines Sorevnovatel’ prosveshcheniia i blagotvoreniia (Competitor in Enlightenment and Charity; 1818–25) and the anthologies Mnemozina (Mnemosyne) and Poliarnaia zvezda (Polar Star). Among the most significant publications of the post-Decembrist period were the monthly of the liubomudry (wisdom-lovers), Moskovskii vestnik (Moscow Herald; 1827–30), which was distinguished by its high level of criticism, and the anthologies Severnye tsvety (Northern Flowers; 1825–31) and Nevskii al’manakh (Neva Anthology; 1825–33), both of which regularly published A. S. Pushkin’s works. However, the publications of that time, which had a relatively narrow readership, were commercially untenable and, as a rule, short-lived.

An energetic attempt to create a new type of literary magazine was made by O. I. Senkovskii, whose Biblioteka dlia chteniia (Library for Reading), which was close to a “magazine-type encyclopedia,” in a short time acquired more than 2,000 subscribers (no previous magazine had had more than 500); however, Senkovskii cleverly played on the public’s tastes and demands rather than molding them.

Russian society felt a need for a “magazine with an orientation”—a periodical organ that expressed the most progressive social and artistic aspirations. This was precisely the idea of A. S. Pushkin, who in 1836 started to publish Sovremennik (The Contemporary). “The words ‘literary magazine’ already contain sufficient explanation,” he wrote (Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 7, Moscow, 1964, p. 520). “The purpose of Otechestvennye zapiski, (The Fatherland Notes),” the program of another literary magazine announced (the program was drawn up by V. F. Odoevskii, its unofficial director, and Pushkin— V. M.), “is to promote Russian enlightenment in all of its branches ...” (V. F. Odoevskii, Povesti i rasskazy, 1959, pp. 485–86). From 1839 to 1846 the leading contributor to Otechestvennye zapiski was V. G. Belinskii, who defined in the magazine the range of tasks of revolutionary enlightenment. Belinskii’s line was continued from 1847 by N. A. Nekrasov’s Sovremennik, which in the 1850’s and 1860’s became, under the direction of N. G. Chernyshevskii and N. A. Dobroliubov, the militant organ of the revolutionary raznochintsy (intellectuals of no definite class), along with Russkoe slovo (The Russian Word), in which D. I. Pisarev wrote.

Ideological orientation was becoming the determining characteristic of Russian literary magazines in the second half of the 19th century—for example, Otechestvennye zapiski under the editorship of Nekrasov and M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin again turned into a magazine of revolutionary democracy, Russkoe bogatstvo (Russian Wealth) was the organ of the Narodniks (Populists), Vestnik Evropy (Herald of Europe) held liberal positions, and Russkii vestnik (Russian Herald) became a protective-reactionary publication in the mid-1860’s.

While devoting most of their space to fiction and literary criticism, Russian literary magazines invariably took into account the broad range of readers’ interests—for example, in Russkoe bogatstvo verses took up an average of 0.8 percent of the volume; prose, 37.2 percent; literary criticism, 14.2 percent; political and social reviews, 10.6 percent; and other materials, 37.2 percent.

Between 1860 and 1891 the number of Russian literary magazines remained unchanged (there were 15). However, in the early 20th century, in a period of the revival of public literary activity, the number grew; every public literary grouping sought to announce itself with the publication of a new literary magazine— for example, Novyi put’ (New Path), 1903–04; Vesy (The Scale), 1904–09; and the Symbolists’ Apollon (Apollo). The development of Russian literature was inextricably connected with the revolutionary movement and with progressive social thought.

Soviet Union. Young Soviet literature created new literary magazines based on the best traditions of Bolshevik party journalism with its clearly defined ideological orientation. “A ‘big monthly’ magazine . . ., must either have a very definite, serious, and consistent direction or it will inevitably bring shame to itself and to its participants,” V. I. Lenin wrote. “A magazine without a direction is something absurd, clumsy, scandalous, and harmful” (O pechati, Moscow, 1959, pp. 387–88).

In the wake of the magazines of the Proletkul’t (Proletarian Cultural and Educational Organizations)— Griadushchee (The Future; 1918–21) and Kuznitsa (The Smithy)—and Vestnik literatury (Literary Herald; 1919–22), which was published by the House of Writers, there appeared Union-wide publications whose task was to mold and direct the literary process—for example, Krasnaia nov’ (Red Virgin Soil; created at V. I. Lenin’s initiative), Zvezda (Star), Novyi mir (New World), and Oktiabr’ (October). With the increase in cultural activity in the provinces, there appeared both regional publications—such as Sibirskie ogni (Siberian Lights), Pod”em (Upsurge; 1931–35, 1937–56, with a hiatus in 1942–44), and Volga (since 1966)—and magazines that specifically present the achievements of national literatures— such as Druzhba narodov (Friendship Among Peoples).

Literary magazines began to be differentiated by readership targets. Molodaia gvardiia (Young Guard) and lunost’ (Youth) are oriented toward young people’s themes. Translations and information about foreign literature and a broad spectrum of problems that arise in world literature are provided by Inostrannaia literatura (Foreign Literature) and the Ukrainian Vsesvit, which continue the traditions of the magazines of the 1920’s and 1930’s, such as Vestnik inostrannoi literatury (Herald of Foreign Literature; 1928–30), Literatura mirovoi revoliutsii (Literature of the World Revolution; 1931–32) and Internatsional’naia literatura (International Literature). Literary magazines, organs of local writers’ associations, appeared in all the Union and autonomous republics—for example, the Byelorussian Polymia, the Georgian Mnatobi, the Kazakh Zhuldyz and Prostor, the Latvian Zvaigzne (since 1950), and the Ukrainian Vitchyzna, Zhovten’, and Prapor.

Soviet literary magazines carry diverse and regular information about the course of Soviet literature and, in turn, actively assist it. Having inherited an “encyclopedic” character from Russian literary magazines and continually perfecting it, Soviet literary magazines are at the same time literary heralds and a platform of the literary struggle in society, a mouthpiece of public opinion.

Foreign socialist countries. The literary magazines of foreign socialist countries, as a rule, are organs of writers’ unions—for example, the Bulgarian Septemvri (since 1948) and Suvremenik (since 1973), the Hungarian Új irás (since 1961) and Kortárs (since 1957), the Cuban Unión (since 1962), the German Neue deutsche Literatur (German Democratic Republic, since 1953), the Polish Miesięcznik literacki (since 1966), the Rumanian Luceafârul (since 1958), and the Czech Literární Mĕsíčník (since 1972). A whole series of literary magazines are published in the republics of Yugoslavia. Other magazines in foreign socialist countries are the Mongolian Tsog (since 1944), the Vietnamese Tac Pham Mhoi (since 1969), and the Korean Choson munhak (since 1953). The leading literary magazine in Albania ïs Nëndori (since 1954). In China literary magazines appeared at the end of the 19th century, later springing up at every stage of its historical and literary development—for example, Hsin ch ‘ing-nien (from 1915), which was associated with the May Fourth Movement and was published with the participation of Lu Hsün, and the periodicals of the Chinese League of Left Writers. Several representative literary magazines existed in the People’s Republic of China, including Jen-min wen-hsüeh (from 1949), Wen-i-pao (from 1949), Chü-pen (from 1952), and Shih-k’an (from 1957). In 1966, during the “cultural revolution,” their publication was discontinued.

Western Europe and America. The direct prototype of literary magazines in the West was the type of magazine that became popular in the mid-18th century (general and news magazines). The first of them was London’s Gentleman’s Magazine (1731–1907), which at first consisted of political and literary news items and reprints of weekly leaflets that satirized morals and then, in the 1740’s, under the direction of S. Johnson, became a popular literary and political herald, a collection of new original articles, essays, verses, narrative poems, and satirical sketches. At the same time, “purely” literary magazines appeared—for example, the Literary Magazine (1756–58) and R. Dodsley’s The Museum (1746–47), the latter already with a special review section. Literary magazines emerged almost immediately as tools in the ideological struggle of the country’s intellectual and creative forces. For instance, one of the most important magazines of the age of Enlightenment, as well as the first strictly literary magazine, was C. M. Wieland’s Der Deutsche Merkur (1773–1810), which rallied Germany’s literary community around the ideals of the Great French Revolution.

The literary magazine Revue de Paris was extremely significant for the literary development of France: from 1829 to 1844 it featured works by H. de Balzac, A. Dumas père, and E. Sue, and from 1851 to 1858, works by T. Gautier and G. Flaubert. The Revue de Paris, revived in 1894, took on the character of a social review that was originally typical of French revues, which published fiction and dealt with purely literary questions from time to time. Such was the magazine Revue Indépendante (1841–48), founded by G. Sand and P. Leroux, and the later Revue Bleu (since 1863), Revue de France (since 1871), and Nouvelle Revue (since 1879).

The leading English literary magazines of the 1820’s were London Magazine (1820–29), to which W. Hazlitt, T. Hood, and T. De Quincey contributed, and Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (since 1817); then there was Chambers’s Journal (since 1832) and Fraser’s Magazine (1830–82), to which T. Carlyle and W. Thackeray contributed. C. Dickens’ first works were published in Old Monthly Magazine (1833–35), and his major novels were published in special monthly editions of weeklies he founded himself— Household Words (1850–59) and All the Year Round (1859–95).

For a long time the Leipziger Repertorium der Deutschen und Ausländischen Literatur (1819–60) served as the all-German literary magazine. And for a while Westermann’s Monatshefte (since 1856), whose contributors included W. Raabe, T. Storm, and later H. Hesse, had the character of a literary magazine. The unification of Germany (1871) created favorable conditions for the establishment of a number of literary magazines. The most important magazines established were Die Gesellschaft (1885–1902), which was the organ of the German naturalists; Blatter für die Kunst (1892–1919), which expressed the Nietzschean and purely aesthetic aspirations of S. George’s circle; and Die Neue Rundschau (since 1890), which retains its authoritativeness and sharp sociocritical orientation to this day and where T. Mann and G. Hauptmann began their creative careers.

The most influential literary magazine in 19th-century Italy was Nuova antologia (1866–1943), whose leading contributors were G. Verga, L. Pirandello, and G. Carducci.

Literary magazines were characteristic of the young literature of the USA. W. Irving founded and published the Analectic Magazine (1813–20); E. A. Poe was the literary editor of Graham’s American Monthly Magazine (1826–58) and in two years increased the number of its subscribers from 5,000 to 37,000; and H. W. Longfellow and N. Hawthorne worked for the Knickerbocker Magazine (1833–65). A landmark in the development of “thick” magazines in the West was the publication of Harper’s Monthly Magazine (since 1850), which utilized the possibilities of illustrations and serials and increased its circulation to 100,000. Until 1900 it retained the character of a literary magazine; then it turned into a sociopolitical review. An offshoot of it was Harper’s Weekly (1857–1916), which at first was also literary but then degenerated into an illustrated commercial publication (with a sprinkling of fiction and reviews), which was most typical of US periodicals in the 20th century.

“Thick” magazines are not very typical of the literary life of today’s Western countries; such magazines are either published by literary groups, especially those laying claim to innovation, or have a tendency to turn into quarterly and semiannual anthologies, or exist by inertia on a commercially unsound basis. (For example, the leading postwar literary magazine in Great Britain, London Magazine, 1954–72, was forced to shut down because of a lack of funds.) International literary magazines are no more viable, for instance, Brussels’ Journal des Poètes (since 1931) or the reactionary Paris Review (since 1953), which exists on a subsidy. Among the most stable literary magazines that act as national or international literary heralds are the American Transatlantic Review (since 1959) and a number of university quarterlies and student literary magazines, the Argentine Revista Sur (since 1931), the Brazilian Realidade (since 1966), the Mexican Sisifo (since 1969), the Austrian Manuskripte (since 1960), the West German Welt und Wort (since 1946) and Akzente (since 1954), the Italian Prove di Letteratura (since 1960) and Nuova Corrente (since 1954), the French Lettrisme (since 1957) and Magazine Littéraire (since 1966), and the Dutch Spiegel der letteren (since 1957). A number of literary magazines exist for the purpose of publishing works by young and beginning authors who are distinguished by avant-garde aspirations—for example, Perspective (USA, since 1947), Viga en el ojo (Spain, since 1965), Serpe (Italy, since 1952), Octopus (France, since 1966), and Vin-duet (Norway, since 1947). V. S. Murav’ev

Asia and Africa. One of the oldest literary magazines in the countries of the Arab East is al-Hilal (Arab Republic of Egypt), founded in 1892 by J. Zaidan; since 1973 a literary supplement to it has been published—al-Zuhur —which is devoted to the work of young Arab, mostly Egyptian, writers. Al-Katib (Arab Republic of Egypt, since 1960) provides reviews and translations of works of world literature. A mal has been published in Algeria since 1958. Al-Adib (since 1941) and al-Adab (since 1952), which attract progressive Lebanese writers, are published in Lebanon. The major Iraqi literary magazines are al-Aqlam (since 1965) and al-Muthaqqaf al-Arabi (since 1969). The state of contemporary Turkish literature, translations of works of world literature, and questions concerning sociopolitical and cultural life in the country and abroad are reflected in the pages of Turkey’s literary magazines, which include Varlik (since 1933), Yeditepe (since 1950), Hisar (since 1950), and Yeni dergi (since 1963). In Iran, Armaghan-i (since 1919) and Yagma (since 1948) publish texts and materials on classical Persian literature and works by adherents of the classical style of Persian poetry; the new poetry and prose that oppose the “traditional” style are printed in Sokhan (since 1944) and Nagin (since 1965).

Kabul (since 1931; since 1935, the organ of the Afghan Academy), published in Pashto, promotes the development of literature in Afghanistan. In India, Alocana (since 1951), Pari-caya (since 1931), and Nava-yi adab (since 1950) introduce works by writers in Hindi, Bengali, and Urdu, respectively; Pakistan’s Urdu writers group themselves around Adab-i latif (since 1914), and works by Sindhi writers are printed in Mihran (since 1950; until 1947 it was published in India). Indonesia’s leading literary magazines are Budaja djaja and Intisari. Japan’s first literary magazines appeared in the 1870’s and 1880’s. According to 1965 data, 54 literary magazines are published there. The organ of the Union of Democratic Literature is Minshu bungaku (since 1965). The best-known Japanese literary magazines are Shincho (since 1900), Bungei shunju (since 1923), Bungei (since 1933), and Gunzo (since 1946).

In the developing countries of Africa, the majority of literary magazines are a means of consolidating progressive creative forces and an effective tool for enlightening and educating the masses. In devoting substantial attention to problems of national culture and publishing monuments of folklore (often in national languages), the progressive African intelligentsia strives to avoid the dangerous absolutization of national distinctiveness by propagandizing the current, socially oriented work of modern African writers who react keenly to world literature. African literary magazines are usually published by universities, colleges, and literary societies; the editors are well-known poets and prose writers. As a rule, they are published quarterly or two or three times a year. The most representative literary magazine on the African continent is Lotus (since 1968; in Arabic, English, and French), the organ of the standing bureau of writers of the countries of Asia and Africa (Cairo). Other literary magazines are as follows: in Ghana, Transition (since 1972, in English; from 1961 to 1968 it was published in Uganda); in the Republic of Zaire, Dombi (since 1970, in French); in Zambia, The Jewel of Africa and New Writings From Zambia (both since 1968; in English); in Cameroon, Abbia (since 1964, in English, French, and national languages); in Kenya, Zuka (since 1967; in English and Swahili) and Ghala (since 1968; in English); in Nigeria, Okike (since 1971; in English); and in Tanzania, Umma (since 1967; in English and Swahili).

(Note: This section was prepared by the Department of Literature of the Countries of Asia and Africa of the All-Union State Library of Foreign Literature.)


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