Encounter (magazine)

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Categories Literary magazine
Frequency Monthly
Founder Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol
First issue October 1953 (1953-10)
Final issue 1991
Company Encounter Ltd.
Country United Kingdom
Based in London
Language English
ISSN 0013-7073

Encounter was a literary magazine, founded in 1953 by poet Stephen Spender and journalist Irving Kristol. The magazine ceased publication in 1991. Published in the United Kingdom, it was a largely Anglo-American intellectual and cultural journal, originally associated with the anti-Stalinist left. The magazine received covert funding from the Central Intelligence Agency, after the CIA and MI6 discussed the founding of an "Anglo-American left-of-centre publication" intended to counter the idea of cold war neutralism. The magazine was rarely critical of American foreign policy, but beyond this editors had considerable publishing freedom.[1]

Spender served as literary editor until 1967, when he resigned[2] due to the revelation that year of the covert Central Intelligence Agency funding of the magazine, which he had heard rumoured, but had not been able to confirm. Thomas W. Braden, who headed the CIA's International Organizations Division's operations between 1951 to 1954, said that the money for the magazine "came from CIA, and few outside the CIA knew about it. We had placed one agent in a Europe-based organization of intellectuals called the Congress for Cultural Freedom."[2][3] Frank Kermode replaced Spender, but he too resigned when it became clear the CIA was involved.[4] Roy Jenkins noted that earlier contributors were aware of U.S. funding, but believed it came from philanthropists including a Cincinnati gin distiller.[5]

Encounter celebrated its greatest years in terms of readership and influence under Melvin J. Lasky, who succeeded Kristol in 1958 and would serve as the main editor until the magazine closed its doors in 1991. Other editors in this period included D. J. Enright.


The weekly Spectator (Tory) and the New Statesman (Labour) are the most prominent such journals in Britain. In the United States the Nation (liberal) and the New Republic (conservative). The American quarterly Partisan Review (1933–2003) was also prominent.


The first issue of Encounter was in October 1953. The magazine was sponsored by the Paris-based Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). The first two Encounter co-editors were the American political essayist Irving Kristol (1920–2009) and the English poet Stephen Spender (1909–95).

In 1967 'Ramparts, the New York Times, and the Saturday Evening Post reported the magazine was funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (and Britain’s MI6), through the Ford Foundation.

Irving Kristol edited the political articles in Encounter from 1953 until 1958.[6]

Stephen Spender’s range of cultural contacts enabled Encounter to publish a large number of prominent poets, short-story writers, novelists, critics, historians, philosophers and journalists, from both sides of the Iron Curtain.Huxleys, Russells,Stracheys, Mitfords, Sitwells, Waughs and WoolfsVirginia in posthumous diary form, her surviving husband Leonard as political essayist and reviewer.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

Encounter published works from professors at Oxford, Cambridge, and London including Isaiah Berlin, Hugh Trevor-Roper, and A.J.P. Taylor – who discussed European history and the great thinkers helping to shape it.

Trevor-Roper launched two of the most celebrated historians' attacks of the day, one on Arnold Toynbee's bestselling ten-volume Study of History, Nancy Mitford wrote about the “Two Cultures” of the hard science and the humanities. Also among the magazine's early luminaries in aesthetics and the history of art were Stuart Hampshire who debated over successive issues the fine points of upper-class vs. lower-class English usage (“U and non-U”), as did C. P. Snow and others, and on The Origins of the Second World War by A. J. P. Taylor. and Richard Wollheim.[14] and Evelyn Waugh[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

Kristol found “New York Intellectuals” to write for encounter, both journalist, literary including the sociologists Daniel Bell who would later serve as his successive co-editors at the Public Interest, Sidney Hook, who spent a year (1955–56) in London as Associate Editor, a tenure with which he would later attempt to make a retrospective reckoning in his “Politics” column in Esquire for June 1967 in what he would describe several months later as his “Confessions of an Unwitty CIA Agent”. Dwight Macdonald, Mainline Americans for Democratic Action-style left-liberal Democrats such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.. While the early English contributions in politics came largely from the center-right, social-democratic, anti-Communist, anti-unilateral-disarmament wing of the Labour fold, as represented most prominently by CAR Crosland (a close friend of Daniel Bell), RHS Crossman, with occasional Tory journalists as Peregrine Worsthorneand the young Henry Fairlie broadening the coverage.[25] and Nathan Glazer,[26][27][28][29][30][31] and John Kenneth Galbraith[32][33][34] and David Marquand,[35][36][37]

Encounter also provoked controversy, with some British commentators arguing Encounter took an excessively deferential stand towards United States foreign policy.[38] Cambridge literary critic Graham Hough described the magazine as "that strange Anglo-American nursling" which had "a very odd concept of culture indeed". The Sunday Times referred to Encounter as "the police-review of American-occupied countries".[38]

Discussing Encounter in the 1950s, Stefan Collini noted that although Encounter was not "narrowly sectarian in either political or aesthetic terms, its pages gave off a distinct whiff of Cold War polemicizing".[39]

The transition to Kristol’s replacement on the political side of Encounter in 1958 by Melvin J. Lasky (1920-2004) was seamless, and a key factor both in the broadening of the magazine’s international scope to include a deeper extension of its European coverage as well as its coverage of the newly decolonized nations of Africa and Asia.

During his 32 years at Encounter, Lasky found writers from Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, the Soviet Union, and then-Yugoslavia, and devoted extensive front-cover coverage throughout the 1960s and 1970s to the persecution of Russian Andrei Sinyavsky (aka “Abram Tertz”, under which nom de plume several samizdat short stories appeared), Yuli Daniel, Joseph Brodsky the philosopher exiled to the West in 1968 by the Polish Communist Party, and who became one of the magazine’s defining contributors. A special 65-page anthology in April 1963, "New Voices in Russian Writing," presented, with the aid of translations by poets W.H. Auden, Robert Conquest, Stanley Kunitz and Richard Wilbur, a selection of the latest works of the rising generation of Russian poets and short-story writers, among them Andrei Voznesensky, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and Vasily Aksyonov ("Matryona's Home," the most-read short story by Solzhenitsyn, was held over until the next issue).[40][41][42] and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and in Poland to the case of Leszek Kołakowski,[43][44][45]

Developing world nations was also covered by Nirad Chaudhuri, who was among the earliest of the magazine’s long-serving correspondents from the subcontinent. Lasky, for his part, having written and published Africa For Beginners in 1962, made a point of devoting a special issue to that continent, along with others devoted to Asia and Latin America.[46]

The 1960s had the highest circulation. The magazine argued the advisability of Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community, the expansion of its tax-funded higher-education system, the aftermath of empire and the strains of assimilating the influx of immigrants from the decolonized nations and socialists in Cuba

Critics and scholars at this time included Clifford Geertz, R.D. Laing, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Konrad Lorenz, György Lukács, Marshall McLuhan, George Steincer, Olympia Press and Maurice Girodias. Conservative sociologist Ernest van den Haag defended the social need for both pornography and censorship.[47][48][49]

Critics, novelists and poets included: Nigel Dennis (1967–70) and D.J. Enright (1970–72), and poet Anthony Thwaite (1973–85).

Poets loosely affiliated from the early 1950s on in what was called The Movement (literature)Kingsley Amis, Robert Conquest, Donald Davie, D.J. Enright, Thom Gunn, Elizabeth Jennings, Philip Larkin, and John Wain.

The biweekly New York Review of Books, founded in 1963, created a rival outlet.[50][51]

Writers Sidney Hook, and Robert Nisbet were opposed to the student revolts of the late 1960s but the socialist critic Irving Howe, editor of Dissent supported these protests.[52][53][54][55]

The 1970s[edit]

In the 1970's writers included Andrew Shonfield, Robert Skidelsky, Kenneth Minogue, (with the popular 1977 documentary series The Age of Uncertainty), Ferdinand Mount, Friedrich A. Hayek, Shirley Robin Letwin, Roger Scruton, EJ Mishan, Peter Bauer.[56] and his critics.[57][58][59][60] and another on his cousin Ludwig Wittgenstein.[61][62][63][64]


In foreign affairs in the 1970s writers included George F. Kennan, then in his early seventies, squared off against his critics in the form of several interviews he had granted to George Urban of Radio Free Europe, with detailed rejoinders — and another mutual follow-up round — in succeeding issues by the veteran historian of the Russian empire at the University of London’s School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, Hugh Seton-Watson, and Leopold Labedz,[65][66] Polish-born editor of Survey, a quarterly journal of Soviet-bloc affairs.[67][68][69][70] by Richard Pipes of Harvard[71][72]

The literary figures in the 1970s included novelists Martin Amis, Italo Calvino, Elias Canetti, Margaret Drabble, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Paul Theroux, D.M. Thomas, William Trevor, critics and essayists Clive James, Gabriel Josipovici, Bernard Levin, David Lodge, Jonathan Raban, Wilfrid Sheed, Gillian Tindall, poets Alan Brownjohn, Douglas Dunn, Gavin Ewart, James Fenton, Seamus Heaney, Erica Jong, Michael Longley, John Mole, Blake Morrison, Andrew Motion, Tom Paulin, Peter Porter, Peter Reading, Peter Redgrove, Vernon Scannell, George Szirtes, and R.S. Thomas.


In the 1980's contributors included Hungarian-born novelist Arthur Koestler[73][74] and the influential French political philosopher and journalist Raymond Aron.[75][76][77] Others included Sidney Hook[78] Other contributors included former Labour cabinet secretary (Lord) Alun Chalfontwere.[79][80][81]

Edward Pearce, a regular contributor to the magazine in the 1980s, claims that Encounter's editors reassigned him from political writing to theatre criticism after he repeatedly used his Encounter column to criticise the Thatcher government.[82]

A 1983 change in cover design changed its "Continental" template in favor of a glossy look more characteristic of proverbially "slick" periodicals familiar from American newsstands. But it still sustained its nonpolitical autonomy and ample proportions when the English poet Anthony Thwaite was replaced in 1985 by Richard Mayne.

Encounter published its final issue in September 1990 because of increasing debts.[83]


Prior to the CIA-funding revelations, Encounter earned regard as a high-water mark in postwar periodical literature. In a review of recent work by Stephen Spender in The New Republic in 1963, the American poet John Berryman wrote, "I don't know how Spender has got so many poems done, especially because he does many things besides write poetry: he is a brilliant and assiduous editor (I would call Encounter the most consistently interesting magazine now being published)…"[84] In the early 1970s, the American monthly Esquire said of Encounter that it was "probably not as good now as when it was backed by the CIA, but [it is] still the best general monthly magazine going."[85][86] In the late 1970s, the Observer wrote that "Encounter is a magazine which constantly provides, in any given month, exactly what a great many of us would have wished to read... there is no other journal in the English-speaking world which combines political and cultural material of such consistently high quality", while the International Herald Tribune called Encounter "one of the few great beacons of English-language journalism... a model of how to present serious writing."[87] And in a review in 2011 in The New Republic of a posthumous collection of essays by Irving Kristol, Franklin Foer wrote that "Encounter... deserve[s] a special place in the history of the higher journalism... [it] was some of the best money that the [CIA] ever spent. The journal, published out of London, was an unlikely coupling of the New York intelligentsia with their English counterparts—an exhilarating intermarriage of intellectual cultures. I am not sure that any magazine has ever been quite so good as the early Encounter, with its essays by Mary McCarthy and Nancy Mitford, Lionel Trilling and Isaiah Berlin, Edmund Wilson and Cyril Connolly. In his typically self-effacing manner, Kristol heaped credit upon Spender for the achievement."[88]

Most prolific authors[edit]

The following is a list of all authors who appeared in Encounter at least 10 times:


  1. ^ Saunders, Frances Stonor (12 July 1999), "How the CIA plotted against us", New Statesman 
  2. ^ a b "Stephen Spender Quits Encounter", The New York Times, 1967-05-08 .
  3. ^ Braden, Thomas W (1967-05-20), "I'm glad the CIA is 'immoral'", The Saturday Evening Post 
  4. ^ Sir Frank Kermode obituary. The Guardian.
  5. ^ Jenkins, Roy, A Life at the Centre (book), Politico's, p. 118, ISBN 978-1-84275-177-0 
  6. ^ Kristol, Irving (March 1952), "'Civil Liberties,' 1952 – A Study in Confusion", Commentary, There is one thing that the American people know about Senator McCarthy: he, like them, is unequivocally anti-Communist. About the spokesmen for American liberalism, they feel they know no such thing. And with some justification. 
  7. ^ a b Robert Graves in Encounter, 1953–74, 13 items, UNZ .
  8. ^ Aldous Huxley in Encounter, 1954–62, 4 items, UNZ .
  9. ^ Nancy Mitford in Encounter, 1955–59, 2 items, UNZ .
  10. ^ Bertrand Russell in Encounter, 1953–59, 4 items, UNZ .
  11. ^ Edith Sitwell in Encounter, 1953–62, 3 items, UNZ .
  12. ^ Woolf, Virginia (October 1953), "Pages from a Diary", Encounter (UNZ): 5–11 .
  13. ^ Leonard Woolf in Encounter, 1954–64, 6 items, UNZ .
  14. ^ Mitford, Nancy (September 1955), "The English Aristocracy", Encounter (UNZ): 5–12 .
  15. ^ Waugh, Evelyn (December 1955), "An open letter to the Hon'ble Mrs. Peter Rodd (Nancy Mitford) on A Very Serious Subject", Encounter (UNZ): 11–16 .
  16. ^ Snow, CP (June 1959), "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution", Encounter (UNZ): 17–24 .
  17. ^ Snow, CP (July 1959), "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution", Encounter (UNZ): 22–7 .
  18. ^ Snow, CP (February 1960), "The 'Two-Cultures' Controversy: Afterthoughts", Encounter (UNZ): 64–68 .
  19. ^ Allen, Walter; Lovell, ACB; Plumb, JH; Riesman, David; Russell, Bertrand; Cockcroft, John; Ayrton, Michael (August 1959), "'The Two Cultures': A Discussion of C.P. Snow's Views", Encounter (UNZ): 67–73 .
  20. ^ Trevor-Roper, HR (June 1957). "Arnold Toynbee's Millennium". Encounter. London: UNZ. pp. 14–27. Retrieved 2012-09-10. ...every chapter of it has been shot to pieces by the experts... It is written in a style compared with which that of Hitler or Rosenberg is that of Gibbonian lucidity... As a dollar-earner, we are told, it ranks second only to whisky. 
  21. ^ Trevor-Roper, HR (July 1961). "AJP Taylor, Hitler, and the War". Encounter. UNZ. pp. 88–96. Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  22. ^ a b Stuart Hampshire in Encounter, 1954–62, 19 items, UNZ .
  23. ^ a b Richard Wollheim in Encounter, 1955–64, 12 items, UNZ .
  24. ^ For a superbly entertaining series of essays profiling a number of the prime controversies exercising the leading British historians and philosophers who were among the core contributors to Encounter in these years, see Mehta, Ved (1963), Fly and the Fly-Bottle: Encounters With British Intellectuals, Boston: Atlantic-Little, Brown , a gifted young Indian-American writer for The New Yorker.
  25. ^ a b Daniel Bell in Encounter, 1954–87, 16 items, UNZ .
  26. ^ Nathan Glazer in Encounter, 1953–81, 6 items, UNZ .
  27. ^ a b Sidney Hook in Encounter, 1957–89, 30 items, UNZ .
  28. ^ a b Dwight Macdonald in Encounter, 1955–62, 17 items, UNZ .
  29. ^ MacDonald, Dwight, Confessions of an Unwitty CIA Agent, Google .
  30. ^ MacDonald, Dwight (1974), Discriminations: Essays & Afterthoughts, Da Capo, p. 90 .
  31. ^ a b Arthur Schlesinger, Jr in Encounter, 1953–83, 12 items, UNZ .
  32. ^ John Kenneth Galbraith in Encounter, 1953–78, 6 items, UNZ .
  33. ^ a b CAR Crosland in Encounter, 1956–74, 18 items, UNZ .
  34. ^ a b RHS Crossman in Encounter, 1954–74, 17 items, UNZ .
  35. ^ a b David Marquand in Encounter, 1961–84, 21 items, UNZ .
  36. ^ a b Peregrine Worsthorne in Encounter, 1954–85, 15 items, UNZ .
  37. ^ a b Henry Fairlie in Encounter, 1956–76, 24 items, UNZ .
  38. ^ a b Stonor Saunders,Frances. Who Paid the Piper?: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War. Granta Books, 1999 ISBN 1862070296, (p. 187-88).
  39. ^ Stefan Collini, Absent minds : intellectuals in Britain. Oxford, Oxford University Press. 2006, ISBN 9780199291052 (p. 145).
  40. ^ Labedz, Leopold; Hayward, Max (January 1966), "Writers & the Police", Encounter (UNZ): 84–8 .
  41. ^ Labedz, Leopold (April 1966), "The Trial in Moscow", Encounter (UNZ): 82–91 .
  42. ^ Brodsky, Josef; and others (September 1964), "Trial of a Young Poet", Encounter (UNZ): 84–91  .
  43. ^ Labedz, Leopold (March 1969), "Kolakowski: On Marxism & Beyond", Encounter (UNZ): 77–87 .
  44. ^ "New Voices in Russian Writing", Encounter (UNZ), April 1963: 27–91 .
  45. ^ Solzhenitsyn, Alexander (May 1963), "Matryona's Home", Encounter (UNZ): 28–45 .
  46. ^ Nirad C. Chaudhuri in Encounter, 1954–85, 8 items, UNZ .
  47. ^ Girodias, Maurice (February 1966), "The Erotic Society", Encounter (UNZ): 52–7 .
  48. ^ van den Haag, Ernest (December 1967), "Is Pornography a Cause of Crime?", Encounter (UNZ): 52–5 .
  49. ^ Steiner, George (October 1965), "Night Words: High Pornography & Human Privacy", Encounter (UNZ): 14–8 .
  50. ^ Kristol contributed twice to the New York Review, in early 1964. His wife Gertrude Himmelfarb, the distinguished historian of Victorian England, wrote for it five times, ending in 1966; Norman Podhoretz once, in 1965; Podhoretz's wife Midge Decter three times through 1964. See Jacob Heilbrunn, "Norman's Conquest: Why Rudy Giuliani loves Norman Podhoretz," The Washington Monthly, December 2007; Merle Miller, "Why Norman and Jason Aren't Talking," The New York Times Magazine, March 26, 1972.
  51. ^ Foer, Franklin (June 29, 1997), "But Is It Art Criticism? The Stalinist aesthetics of the Weekly Standard", Slate .
  52. ^ Hook, Sidney (August 1968), "The Prospects of Academe: Letter from New York", Encounter (UNZ): 60–5 .
  53. ^ Nisbet, Robert (February 1970), "Who Killed the Student Revolution?", Encounter (UNZ): 10–8 .
  54. ^ Howe, Irving (April 1970), Zola: The Genius of 'Germinal' Encounter, UNZ, pp. 53–60 .
  55. ^ Miller, Stephen (March 1976), "A Stalinist in America", Encounter (UNZ): 61 .
  56. ^ PT Bauer in Encounter 1974–88, 7 items, UNZ .
  57. ^ Shonfield, Andrew (January 1977), "Can Capitalism Survive till 1999?", Encounter (UNZ): 10–7 .
  58. ^ Minogue, Kenneth (December 1977), "Galbraith's Wit & Unwisdom: Ordeal by Caricature", Encounter (UNZ): 14–8 .
  59. ^ Galbraith, John Kenneth; Minogue, Kenneth (April 1978), "Galbraith on Minogue: And Vice Versa", Encounter (UNZ): 87–8 .
  60. ^ Hayek, FA (March 1978), "The Miscarriage of the Democratic Ideal", Encounter (UNZ): 14–6 .
  61. ^ Hayek, FA (August 1977), "Remembering My Cousin, Ludwig Wittgenstein", Encounter (UNZ): 20–2 .
  62. ^ Letwin, Shirley Robin (October 1977), "Taking the Law Unseriously: Dworkin's Rights and Wrongs", Encounter (UNZ): 76–81 .
  63. ^ Roger Scruton in Encounter, 1972–87, 9 items, UNZ .
  64. ^ a b EJ Mishan in Encounter, 1969–88, 13 items, UNZ .
  65. ^ Labedz, Leopold (April 1978), "The Two Minds of George Kennan: How To Un-Learn from Experience", Encounter (UNZ): 78–85 .
  66. ^ Labedz, Leopold (September 1978), "A Last Critique: On Kennan's Warnings", Encounter (UNZ): 32–4 .
  67. ^ Urban, George (September 1976), "From Containment to... Self-Containment: A Conversation with George F. Kennan", Encounter (UNZ): 10–43 .
  68. ^ Kennan, George F (March 1978), "Mr. X Reconsiders: A Current Assessment of Soviet-American Relations", Encounter (UNZ): 7–12 .
  69. ^ Kennan, George F (July 1978), "A Last Warning: Reply to My Critics", Encounter (UNZ): 15–8 .
  70. ^ Seton-Watson, Hugh (November 1976), "George Kennan's Illusions: A Reply", Encounter (UNZ): 24–35 .
  71. ^ Pipes, Richard (April 1978), "Mr X. Revises: A Reply to George F Kennan", Encounter (UNZ): 18–21 .
  72. ^ Pipes, George (September 1978), "Richard Pipes Replies", Encounter (UNZ): 35 .
  73. ^ "The Life & Death of Arthur Koestler", Encounter (special sections) (UNZ), July 1983 .
  74. ^ "The Life & Death of Arthur Koestler", Encounter (special sections) (UNZ), September–October 1983 .
  75. ^ Aron, Raymond (February 1984), "The Stroke: A Memoir before the End", Encounter (UNZ): 9–11 .
  76. ^ Bondy, Francois (February 1984), "Raymond Aron", Encounter (UNZ): 21–4 .
  77. ^ Lasky, Melvin J (February 1984), "Death of a Giant", Encounter (UNZ): 75–7 .
  78. ^ Hook, Sidney (March 1984), "Bertrand Russell: A Portrait from Memory", Encounter (UNZ): 9–20 .
  79. ^ Chalfont, Alun (January 1981), "Arguing About War & Peace: Thompson's 'Ban-the-Bomb' Army", Encounter (UNZ): 79–87 .
  80. ^ Chalfont, Alun (April 1983), "The Great Unilateralist Illusion: 'Ignorance is Strength'", Encounter (UNZ): 18–38 .
  81. ^ Chalfont, Alun (September 1984), "The 'Star Wars' Scenario: New Problems of Emergent Technology", Encounter (UNZ): 52–8 .
  82. ^ Pearce, Edward (11 September 1991), "Uncle Joe's Heirs and Disgraces", The Guardian 
  83. ^ Wittstock, Melinda (18 January 1991), "Debts force suspension of journal", The Times, Encounter...has suspended publication because of a £60,000 exchange-rate loss and mounting debts 
  84. ^ Berryman, John (June 29, 1963), "Spender: The Poet as Critic", The New Republic .
  85. ^ Quoted in the entry for Felton, Bruce; Fowler, Mark (1975), "Best Magazine", Felton & Fowler's Best, Worst and Most Unusual, Crowell .
  86. ^ Felton, Bruce; Fowler, Mark (1994), The Best, Worst and Most Unusual, Galahad, p. 82 .
  87. ^ Both quotes appeared in advertisements for Encounter run in numerous English periodicals of the time, e.g., in "Encounter: Britain's leading monthly of current affairs and the arts", Ecologist (advertisement) 8 (3), May–June 1978: 90 .
  88. ^ Foer, Franklin (March 17, 2011), "Ideas Rule the World", The New Republic .

External links[edit]