Partisan Review

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Partisan Review
April-May 1935 issue
Frequency quarterly
First issue 1934
Final issue 2003
Country United States
Language English
ISSN 0031-2525

Partisan Review (PR) was an American political and literary quarterly published from 1934 to 2003, though it suspended publication between October 1936 and December 1937.


The journal was founded by William Phillips, Philip Rahv, and Sender Garlin. It grew out of the John Reed Club as an alternative to New Masses, the publication of the American Communist Party, but became staunchly anti-Communist after Joseph Stalin secured his place at the head of the Soviet Union.[1] Many of its early authors were the children of Jewish immigrants from Europe. Rarely having more than ten thousand subscribers,[1] the journal reached its peak influence from the late 1930s to the early 1960s, after which it gradually lost its relevance. Phillips died in September 2002 at age 94. The journal continued under his wife, Edith Kurzweil, through an agreement with Boston University, until ceasing publication in April 2003.[2][3]

Contributors included W.S. Merwin, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Saul Bellow, Valery Brainin-Passek, Doris Lessing, Philip Roth, Lionel Trilling, Irving Howe, Dwight Macdonald, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Sylvia Plath, Clement Greenberg, Paul Goodman,[4] and Susan Sontag.

George Orwell, in reply to a letter from Philip Rahv requesting names of possible contributors for PR, offered the following: Alex Comfort, Henry Treece, Alun Lewis, William Rogers[disambiguation needed], G. S. Fraser, Roy Fuller, Kathleen Raine, who all contributed to Poetry London. Older people he proposed included Herbert Read, T. S. Eliot, Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice, and "their lot," E. M. Forster ("who has seen and likes PR"), William Empson, Jack Common, Hugh Slater, Ahmed Ali, and Roy Campbell.[5]

Between 1941 and 1946 Orwell wrote fifteen "London Letters" for the Review, the first of which appeared in the March-April 1941 issue.[5] In 1949, the journal awarded Orwell £357 for the year's most significant contribution to literature, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

A controversy[edit]

The September-October 1942 issue of PR carried Orwell's reply to letters sent in by D. S. Savage, George Woodcock, and Alex Comfort in response to his "London Letter" of the March-April issue, in which he criticized "left-wing defeatism" and "turn-the-other-cheek" pacifists, stating that they were "objectively pro-Fascist". In his article he had mentioned several people by name, including Comfort, and accused the review Now, of which Woodcock was editor, of having a Fascist tendency. In his reply, Orwell reiterated that "Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist"; defended his work for the BBC's Indian broadcasts and refuted the accusation that he "is intellectual-hunting again."[5]

Rutgers and a lawsuit over its records[edit]

In 1963, the journal moved its offices to the campus of Rutgers University and William Phillips was named a Lecturer in the English Department. There, the journal enjoyed rent-free offices and Phillips received a University salary and benefits, as well secretarial assistance. When Phillips approached the University's then mandatory faculty retirement age of 70 in 1978 and was told that no exception would be made for him to stay on past that, he moved the operations to Boston University. In doing so, he attempted to take the records of the journal with him (some of which had been stored at the Rutgers University Library since 1963), but was stopped from doing so by university police. The University stated that the records had been given to Rutgers and were part of the 1963 agreement which resulted in the University investing over $1 million in supporting the journal. Ultimately Phillips sued the University stating that the records were only on deposit and won his case.[6]

Funding by the C.I.A.[edit]

The Central Intelligence Agency helped fund the Partisan Review and other cultural journals in the United States and Western Europe affiliated with anti-Stalinist leftists such as the social democrat Sidney Hook in the 1950s and 1960s.[7][8] While the C.I.A. would tolerate the expression of social democratic philosophy, it drew the line at criticism of U.S. foreign policy. [8] Another famous cultural magazine funded by the C.I.A. was Paris Review.[9] By the 1960s, it was generally understood that the C.I.A. was funding the non-Stalinist left journals.[8]

Classic contributions[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Bloom, Alexander, Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals & Their World, Oxford University Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-19-505177-3


  1. ^ a b Nicholas Sabloff. "The Nursery of Genius". The New York Review of Magazines. Retrieved 2010-01-29. [dead link]
  2. ^ Final issue of Partisan Review "A Tribute to William Phillips," by Edith Kurzweil (PR 2/ 2003 VOLUME LXX NUMBER 2)
  3. ^ Peter Wood (2003-04-29). "So Long, Partisan". National Review. Retrieved 2010-01-29. 
  4. ^ Biography The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Orwell, Sonia and Angus, Ian (eds.) The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 2: My Country Right or Left, p. 16 (London, Penguin)
  6. ^ Becker, Ronald. ""On Deposit: A Handshake and a Lawsuit"". The American Archivist. Society of American Archivists. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  7. ^ Troy, Thomas M., Jr. "The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters; Intelligence in Recent Public Literature". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Petras, James. "The CIA and the Cultural Cold War Revisited". Monthly Review. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  9. ^ Whitney, Joel. "Exclusive: The Paris Review, the Cold War and the CIA". Salon. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 

External links[edit]