The Matter of Europe – Two Perspectives on the First SpaTrEM Workshop

Selina Miltner:

Magazines and journals come in various shapes and designs, and represent a wide range of different (political) opinions, world views and manifestos. On closer inspection, an investigation of the ‘behind the scenes’ processes like editing and publishing enables us to comprehend better how a journal positions itself with regard to its readership. In the four papers presented in this workshop, this consideration of details and background information was closely linked to the editorship, the funding, and the political stances of the respective magazines.

The first paper Encounter magazine and ‘Going into Europe’” presented by Jason Harding (University of Durham) discussed two special issues of the magazine Encounter, founded in 1953. Encounter had a strong pro-European orientation, and was critical of the political isolation of Britain caused by Charles de Gaulle’s veto against it entering the EEC. In his paper, Harding focussed on the two symposia ‘Going into Europe’ (December 1962) and ‘Suicide of a Nation?’ (July 1963) that discussed Britain’s role in Europe. These symposia were a consequence of the shock of Britain’s failure to enter the EEC. Encounter’s editor Melvin Lasky interpreted this as a turning away from the values and international connections meant to create a strong position for the European nations against nationalism and chauvinism.

Many writers, including Lasky, were critical towards Arthur Koestler, following the publication of ‘Suicide of a Nation?’, which articulated Koestler’s disappointment at Britain no longer being a leading global power or playing a key role in post-war Europe. Despite disagreeing, Lasky let Koestler take the lead as guest editor, but insisted on the question mark at the end of the title to weaken its provocative effect. Nevertheless, the issue drew negative comments: it was seen as dramatized, exaggerated, and over-stated. Furthermore, as a political refugee from Germany, Koestler was said to have not understood the British class system as described in ‘Suicide of a Nation?’. Harding’s paper thus showed how a ‘trauma’ such as the refusal to let Britain join the Common Market could fuel a broad discussion and controversial arguments about Europe in periodicals.

The paper by Dana Steglich (JGU Mainz) “A United Europe. The Politics and Practices of Der Monat” – focussed on the German-language journal Der Monat, founded in 1948, and funded by the Americans up until 1954. According to Steglich, the close link to America could be clearly seen in the magazine in the first six years of its existence.

The first Editor-in-chief, the American Melvin J. Lasky, once claimed that the magazine aimed to be a forum bringing together voices from all around the world to debate openly and foster free speech. Der Monat published articles by different national and international writers andalso published translations – especially from English but also on a smaller scale from languages such as Italian and Russian into German. Contributions by exiled and previously forbidden German writers were published as well. Der Monat’s intention was to reach a diverse readership with different levels of education. Steglich’s statement about Der Monat being openly anti-communist and excluding communists as well as conservative writers contradicts this openness. She argued that the journal wanted to encourage the reorientation of the German people, create a link to the West and convey a liberal ideology. Der Monat used its claim to diversity to convey a manifesto and certain values, but in leaving out other ideas it influenced its readers’ opinions on political issues.

This political bias is clear in five issues of Der Monat from 1958 in which articles were interrupted by two markedly different pages carrying the heading ‘A United Europe’. According to Steglich, these pages were probably used as propaganda, as they were similar in design to advertisements, but did not include an indication of a source or a company. Hence journal design can tell us a lot about political stance.

The third paper was by Sylvie Patron (Université Paris Diderot): “Georges Bataille and Éric Weil at the head of the journal Critique: correspondence and antipody”. It showed well how the shared editorship of the journal Critique, founded in 1946, kept it ‘alive’ but also fuelled conflicts between the editors Georges Bataille and Éric Weil, due to their different personalities and contradictory (political) stances. The journal’s aim was to review influential national and international books and articles. Weil, who became a co-editor alongside Bataille, began his work for Critique by corresponding at length and discussing with him international books suitable for review.

While working on Critique, differences between the two editors surfaced. Weil became more critical of Bataille’s way of working and saw problems in the journal’s changing formula and its handling of political matters, as well as its financial difficulties, which often caused delays in publication. Bataille criticized Weil for being in favour of communism and Marxism, and rejected a book on communism proposed by Weil for review. As a result, both editors agreed not to include such articles in future. This demonstrates the importance of correspondences in understanding the editorial dynamics of a journal. Lastly, Patron raised the question of gender inequality, as no women served on the editorial committees of Critique. This contradicts the open-mindedness of the journal reflected in its international oriented content.

The fourth paper “Exile from Eden: Adam International Review” by Chris Mourant (University of Birmingham) also discussed the role of editorship in journals – in this case the bilingual literary journal ADAM – and in particular how its editor’s actions affected the journal. Romanian-born and Jewish, Miron Grindea worked as a translator from Romanian into English in London during the war. After the war, he published international literary works in French and English in the journal. The intention behind publishing articles in two languages was to create a link between France and England and to make those nations get to know each other. ADAM was a forum for the works of European exiled intellectuals and its aim was to spread their views on Europe.

The journal published literature within the disciplines of art, drama, architecture, and music. Although it was a small journal with no long-term funding, it managed to ‘survive’ thanks to Grindea’s efforts but also to his personality. Mourant considered Grindea an idealistic editor and a ‘ruthless social networker’ when looking for new material to publish in ADAM. Grindea wanted to find stories and anecdotes not published elsewhere and therefore collected stories and manuscripts from all around the globe. He also published special issues with literature on ‘smaller’ countries like Finland, Portugal, India, etc. to create an internationally oriented journal.

Hannah Schwehm:

This workshop brought together papers about four post-war journals, Encounter, Der Monat, Critique and ADAM, which were followed by a lively discussion where I learnt a lot about periodical culture in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

The first journal, Encounter, was addressed by Jason Harding (Durham University) in his paper Encounter magazine and “Going into Europe”’. Encounter, founded in London, was a pro-European intellectual journal highly critical of British political isolationism. The themes it covered included an in-depth analysis of what was wrong in Britain in 1963, with a symposium provocatively named “Suicide of a Nation”. The respective articles addressed Britain’s problematic situation in the context of Europe, including criticism regarding its refusal to take the lead in the reconstruction of post-war Europe. It seemed “Britain had lost an Empire and not yet discovered a role”. Many British readers were critical, making statements such as “Having read Encounter for years, I am sad to witness this suicide of a magazine”. According to Arthur Koestler, a political refugee and contributor to the journal, Britain couldn’t live without Europe, just as Europe couldn’t live without Britain. Koestler primarily considered himself European, above questions of nationality. It’s interesting and relevant to think about the themes raised by this magazine in the light of current events such as the 2016 Brexit referendum and its consequences.

The second journal, Der Monat, was presented by Dana Steglich (JGU Mainz/ Germersheim) who described findings from her paper ‘A United Europe: The Politics and Practices of Der Monat.’ Der Monat was a German magazine edited by Melvin Lasky, an American, and was mainly aimed at young academics. Interestingly, Koestler was a regular correspondent. In its manifesto, the magazine claims to be an international journal which serves as a forum for open debate and free expression of opinion. The journal’s editors viewed their work as a part of a collective European undertaking, with freedom and diversity as key ideas. The editors claimed that their readers’ voices were of interest to them. Yet, the journal apparently never intended for all groups to be included – for instance communist and Catholic voices were excluded. The role of translation in this undertaking was really interesting – sadly, translations were hardly credited, which makes you wonder whether this was a deliberate decision and how the translators themselves thought about this. What most caught my attention were specific advertisements found in the journal; self-contained units, which were unrelated to articles and contributions on adjacent pages. These advertisements promote the idea of a “United Europe” but didn’t entirely match the magazine’s ethos, which raises the relevant question of who was responsible for them, as no external source could be determined. Presumably, other magazines contained similar advertisements. Therefore, comparing these findings with other journals would make an interesting topic of research that might provide some insight into the origin of these advertisements which argue that a united Europe is stronger.

The third paper, ‘Georges Bataille and Éric Weil at the head of the journal Critique: correspondence and antipody’ was presented by Sylvie Patron (Université Paris Diderot). Critique aimed at critically reviewing books and articles. What was fascinating for me was the focus on the discourse between the journal’s two editors Bataille and Weil. Their correspondence over five-and-a-half years serves as a material demonstration of statements made as a consequence of different events, and gives valuable insight into the first years of the magazine. Bataille and Weil disagreed on a number of matters, such as who to collaborate with, which makes the correspondence particularly interesting. Parts of their letters gave us an idea of how they interacted with one another. While incomplete, these reveal a lot about the magazine, such as the difficulties it faced and the decisions that had to be made. For instance, from the letters we learn that the choice of publisher was an important one to make, as regular publishing was crucial, as was the avoidance of printing errors Getting books reviewed also proved difficult, as these had to be sent out to reviewers, causing delays. Patron’s presentation provided insight into the rich correspondence about the editorial side of the magazine bringing the dialogues between the editors to life.

The last paper was presented by Chris Mourant (University of Birmingham): ‘Exile from Eden: Adam International Review. Interestingly, this journal was run by one single editor, Miron Grindea. Its aim was to review key developments and trends in literature and art, while the focus was on a European cultural identity. ADAM served as a platform for intellectuals to discuss European values and included international contributions such as short stories from different countries, like China or India. Audiences praised the journal’s internationalism, and its inclusion of smaller cultural areas and languages. However, the journal’s conservative nature and its one-man-editorship led to concerns it was somewhat out of step with the times. Despite the irregularity with which it appeared, the journal’s longevity is stunning. Grindea appears to have “ruthlessly” chased manuscripts and networked with potential contributors who provided unpaid content. Pictures of Grindea’s office and archives indicated something of the chaos in which he appeared to work, making the richness of the magazine all the more intriguing.

Having heard all the papers, what struck me was how often the names of editors and contributors appeared across the different magazines. This made me think that these cross-publication relationships deserve greater attention to get a better sense of the bigger picture. The workshop provided insight into different types of editors and their roles, as well as those of institutions, to understand the networks between the people involved, such as editors and translators. The papers presented in the workshop inspired me to reflect on how we understand European identity today and how journals represent internationalism from different perspectives.

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