Partisan Responsibilities

Partisan Responsibilities

The first two Partisan Review anthologies, published in 1946 and 1953 and now out of print, were of an almost unbelievable richness. The contributors whose names began with “A” were Lionel Abel, James Agee, Conrad Aiken, Sherwood Anderson, Hannah Arendt, W.H. Auden, and Erich Auerbach. Those whose names began with “B” included Isaac Babel, James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, R.P. Blackmur, Louise Bogan, Paul Bowles, and James Burnham. . . .You get the idea. Writers and Partisans: A Partisan Review Reader, published in 1983 and also out of print, was slenderer but still distinguished, with essays by Arendt, Daniel Bell, Albert Camus, Nicola Chiaromonte, Irving Howe, Arthur Koestler, Dwight Macdonald, Czeslaw Milosz, Susan Sontag, Stephen Spender, and Leon Trotsky, among others. The book-length fiftieth-anniversary edition (1984) was a grand family reunion, with contributions from eminent members of every Partisan generation.

A hard act to follow. But then, A Partisan Century isn’t really meant to be definitive, or even representative. There is no poetry, fiction, or literary criticism, and except for Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” and two or three other pieces, no cultural commentary of the kind whose breadth, verve, and authority made the magazine famous. The new anthology is designed, rather, to answer the question: What have Partisan Review’s politics been during its sixty years?

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