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The New Review as a Mirror on Russian Exile
This year the renowned New York-based The New Review, whose founding was spearheaded by Ivan Bunin, celebrates its 75th anniversary. Over the decades, this publication has become a real cultural phenomenon of the Russian émigré community. We spoke with the journal’s editor-in-chief, Marina Mikhailovna Adamovich, about what defines this publication today.
– The New Review, which unites the Russian-speaking diaspora of many countries and nationalities, marks its 75th anniversary this year. How was it founded?
– The journal’s first issue came out in January 1942 in New York, thanks to the initiative of Ivan Bunin and the efforts of his colleagues—the novelist Mark Aldanov and literary critic and poet Mikhail Tsetlin. They wrote for and sat on the editorial board of the well-known journal Sovremennye zapiski (“Contemporary Papers”), which had closed down in France after the Second World War. The New Review gets its name from this relationship to Sovremennye zapiski and turning a new page for the Russian émigré community. The publication’s conceptual credo is formulated in the journal’s first installment: “Russia. Freedom Emigration.” The journal published authors who brought worldwide acclaim to Russian literature: Ivan Bunin, Georgy Adamovich, Gaito Gazdanov, Boris Zaitsev, Vladimir Nabokov, Georgy Ivanov, and others. Three Russian Nobel laureates—Ivan Bunin, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Joseph Brodsky—were also contributors to New Journal. The journal also published chapters of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago in parallel with the first edition of the novel.
Marina Adamovich. Photo: Magazines.russ.ru
We stay true to the vision that the journal’s first editors-in-chief had for it. Our journal expresses as thoroughly as possible the concept of a unified Russian literature, unrestricted by the places where particular writers and poets happen to reside. These currents simply develop in varied geographical and cultural circumstances.
– How many countries can now access New Journal?
– More than 30. We post it online, on our own site and on the Russian site Zhurnalnyi zal.
– The journal’s 75th anniversary coincides with the 100th anniversary of the revolution…
– And therefore, that of the emigration… In this connection, it is logical to speak about the publication’s unifying role in reflecting the history of both Russia and the emigration. The New Review and the major figures of the Russian emigration stood at the source of the famous Bakhmeteff Archive, founded in 1951 as a center for collecting and preserving materials immediately related to Russian and European culture and now located at Columbia University in New York.
The committee that consulted on transferring the archive to Columbia University was chaired by Harvard University professor Mikhail Karpovich, who was the editor-in-chief of The New Review from 1946 to 1959. The collection included writings by Mark Aldanov, Ivan Bunin, Alexandra Tolstaya, Boris Nicolaevsky, Vasily Maklakov, and other prominent Russian émigrés. With collaboration from The New Review, it also brought together the archival documents that formed the basis for the famous cycle of novels The Red Wheel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
– In the last 10 years New Journal has been known as the organization bestowing the Mark Aldanov Literary Prize, a contest for the best novella by a Russian abroad.
– It’s no accident that this contest is named in honor of the journal’s first editor-in-chief. Mark Aldanov was one of the most famous authors of the Russian diaspora. In particular, he is the author of the trilogy Key, Flight, and Cave, which depicts the events leading up to the 1917 revolution, as well as the first years after the revolution. In the United States, he was published by Charles Scribener’s Sons and by the Chekhov Publishing House, and he was frequent contributor to The New York Times. In Russia he sadly remains virtually unknown to this day. In 1991, the Russian researcher A. Chernyshev prepared and published a six-volume collection of Aldanov—this is essentially the limit of the Russian reader’s acquaintance with this astounding writer.
The purpose of this contest (which was founded in 2007) has been to support the writers of the Russian emigration. For an émigré writer, especially a beginner, reaching readers is a massive problem. And yet there are around 25 million people living outside Russia. The contest winner receives a prize of 1000 dollars to support their writing, and all prizewinners are published in The New Review. I should mention that the contest is conducted anonymously: each manuscript is given a number and reaches the jury in this form.
– Who would you single out among the competition winners?
– Andrei Ivanov from Estonia. We discovered him. He didn’t publish anywhere before us, and his first publication was the Aldanov Prize-winning story “My Danish Grandfather” in 2017. The following year he won the contest with his story “Ash,” and later he repeatedly won various literary competitions and made the short list for the Russian Booker Prize. I’ll also mention our prizewinner from the USA, the prose writer and documentary filmmaker Alexandra Sviridova, the author of “The Sigh of a Fish Atop a Mountain.” We introduced our New York audience to her film about Varlam Shalamov at the Russian Documentary Independent Film Festival in New York. The film Several of My Lives was all but destroyed after its premiere in Russia in 1900, but a personal copy remained with the author. Alexandra’s film is, in my opinion, the best narrative about Sharlamov to this day. Incidentally, the editor-in-chief of The New Journal for nearly thirty years, Roman Gul, received the manuscript for Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales from the Soviet Union and published it. Thus, in the 1960s The New Journal discovered this name for the whole world, Russia included.
In 2016 the winner of the contest was the prose writer Dmitry Isakzhanov (“The Lot of Angels”), who lives in the Arab Emirates. The second and third places went to Andrei Belozerov (“PMR Gallery,” Moldova) and Mark Zaichik (“The Legend of Commissar Mordvinov,” Israel). I’ll also name our other prizewinners: Boris Khazanov and Vladimir Batshev (Germany), Natalia Chervinskaya (USA), Vadim Yarmolinets (USA), Boris Roland (Belarus), Igor Gelbach and Leonid Levinson (Israel), Vasily Kolin (Kazakhstan), Vladimir Lidsky (Kyrgyzstan), Anatoly Nikolin (Ukraine)… The members of this year’s jury were: Professor of Russian Literature Elena Krasnoshchekova (Atlanta), journalist and “Voice of America” contributor Victoria Kupchinetskaya (New York), curator of Russian Programs at the Brooklyn Public Library Alla Makkeva-Roylance (New York), and journalist and founder of the “Books for Russia” Committee Liudmila Obolensky-Flam (Washington).
Due to these anniversaries (of both the journal and the prize), we are preparing to publish a collection of works by Aldanov-prizewinning authors. We are planning to release two volumes, the first one coming out in October 2017.
– Please tell us about the central members of The New Review team, who aid the journal’s work on organizational and creative levels.
– The New Review has been officially incorporated since 1953. The corporation’s staff includes prominent members of the business and creative circles of the old and new Russian language diasporas. One of them is my great old friend Valentina Alekseevna Sinkevich, a terrific poet and critic, a very highly cultured person from the second wave of the emigration. Valentina Alekseevna was forced to flee to Germany as an adolescent during the Second World. In the United States, she managed to make a respectable life for herself, becoming the founder and editor of the poetic almanac Vstrechi [Encounters], a unique publication that has come out in America for 30 years. Last year, in honor of Valentina Sinkevich’s 90th birthday, The New Review published By Lamplight, a collection of her poems—this edition was also notable in that it was enabled by the financial assistance of the Russian-language poets of the US. This edition of selected works is our collective gift to Valentina Alekseevna.
The corporation also includes descendants of the first wave of the immigration: Igor Sikorsky, Petr Cherepnin, Prince Vladimir Golitsyn, Prince Nikita Lobanov-Rostovsky, Countess Tatiana Bobrinskaya, and others.
– Tell us about your upcoming 10th-anniversary documentary film festival in New York, RusDocFilmFest-3W, and your takeaways from the past decade.
– In nine years we have shown the 180 best documentary films from various countries. It is a unique professional, independent festival for Russian-language documentary film outside Russia. Hardly anyone in the West or the United States knows about the documentary films of Russia and the diaspora, even though it is technically strong, aesthetically original, and honest about the issues it raises. The festival has a competitive program and a non-competitive one. At the festival—which will take place this year on 20-22 October in Manhattan—we will award the Grand Prix in a new design. Two years ago Ernst Neizvestny gave us an emblem for the festival. By the efforts of American sculptor Jeff Bliumis, a student of Neizvestny, this graphic design has now been realized in bronze. Thematically, the festival is divided into several series: the film series “In the beginning was the word…” about Russian literature, its past and present; the series “Remembering the Holocaust in the 21st century”; a series with strong social themes called “Free World”; and so forth.
– Is the audience of the festival mainly made up by our compatriots?
– For the most part, these are the residents of the states Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. Among them are also members of the Russian-speaking diaspora. They make up a third of the total, and in my opinion, they are among the best educated. Various segments of American society show an active interest in the festival.
– Who supports you among the American representatives of the New York creative scene?
– The American director and documentarian John Alpert, who was twice nominated for an Oscar and has won sixteen Emmys. He has his own film center in New York: Downtown Community Television Center. We will hold our joint celebration there—the anniversaries of the journal, the Aldanov Prize, and the film festival. We will show films, most of which have won prizes at Russian and international film festivals… The participants include directors from Russia, Israel, Poland, and the United States.
– You also plan to have roundtables dedicated to the journal’s anniversary…
– Yes, several. One is dedicated to the 75-year anniversary of the journal in the context of the history of the Russian emigration. We will conduct a second roundtable on the Russian-speaking diaspora, in which American Slavicists and representatives of the Russophone diaspora in the US will take part. A roundtable will also be organized on questions concerning documentary film. We will also hold several exhibitions: there were be photo and painting exhibits, and we hope to also have an exhibition of Russian documentary film studios. All information will be posted on the websites for the corporation and the film festival closer to October.
– How do you plan to disseminate the materials produced by the roundtables.
– They will be published in The New Review. Incidentally, the anniversary of our publication will also be commemorated in November, as part of the annual conference of the largest international organization for Slavic Studies, the Association for Slavic, East European & Eurasian Studies (ASEEE). This year the convention will be held in Chicago, and we are holding a panel devoted to our journal: “The New Review/’Novyi Zhurnal’ as a Mirror of Russian Exile,” as well as an evening presentation of the new book by the poet Dmitry Bobyshev, a professor at an American university.
– You organize panels at the ASEEES conference dedicated to diaspora and emigration?
– Yes. We began all this about twenty years ago, working then with Marc Raeff, a Professor Emeritus at Columbia University and a descendant of émigrés from France. He was the one who came up with the now classic expression defining the multinational Russophone diaspora: “Russia in miniature.” The history of the emigration isn’t written, but it is already quite mythologized. And our task is to restore the truth, the names and events.
– Specialists appreciate the journal’s archival section. A related question: Do you know of any researchers who specialize in the history of The New Journal itself?
– We would be glad to cooperate with such researchers. Our own archive is a part of the Russian Emigration Archive at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture. Amherst College is the alma mater of Thomas Whitney, the well-known American translator of Solzhenitsyn. Whitney was our sponsor for nearly forty years. If someone wanted to seriously study The New Journal, they would have to work there.
– The New Journal has taken up some new projects over the past year. Please tell us about them.
– We plan to digitize the first 200 issues of the journal. I should mention that since last year the journal’s general sponsor has been the Zimin Foundation, which has also supported the digitization of archival issues, the publication of new issues of The New Journal, and—since January 2017—the “Online Journalistic Supplement to The New Journal.”
– The better part of the poetic wealth of the Russian diaspora in New York is represented in the pages of your journal. The outstanding America critic Lilia Pann called it the “Hudson Note,” by analogy to the “Parisian note” of the poet Georgy Adamovich.
– Yes, it’s true that in New York alone poets gathered who could bring fame to any capital city. Bakhyt Kenjeev, Ina Bliznetsova, Andrey Gritsman, Vladimir Gandelsman, Gennady Katsov, Grigory Starikovsky, Marina Garber…The Hudson note—like its Parisian predecessors—came together not on the principle of similar aesthetic models, but on the principle of common “sustenance”; their heterogeneity arises from the blending together and driving apart of their individual styles. The Hudson ecumene.
One could and should closely study the literary notes of The New Journal both to form a picture of the contemporary creative diaspora and to study the overall context of Russian literature outside Russia… We also would like to strengthen our ties with translators of Russian literature—American and European—so that they could help us solve the very complex problem of introducing the contemporary Russian diasporic literature into the context of world culture.
– What are your other plans for the anniversary?
– To continue publishing the journal. You see, the journal has lasted 75 years, and literary journals don’t usually live that long. Especially in emigration. But today The New Journal is absolutely thriving. It remains in demand as before, and it remains a chronicle of the contemporary free Russian diaspora. Therefore, our primary task was, is, and will be to preserve it. Which is very difficult. The paradigm of world culture has changed, society is structured differently, and its requirements are formulated differently. And this means that we need to search out new pathways to remain in demand. But we will remain in our cultural niche, as a journal for intellectuals and creative people who want to learn the truth about the past, shape the present themselves, and perceive themselves in the future.