From creative localism to interculturalism.
A retrospective look (1)
by Daniel Dragomirescu
The “Contemporary Literary Horizon” magazine was founded by an editorial staff coordinated by Mihai Cantuniari (manager) and Daniel Dragomirescu (editor-in-chief) in May 2008. At first, the journal aimed to be a sequel of “Adevărul literar din Vaslui”, which was issued between 16th January 2006 and 1st September 2007. It also aimed to fill a necessary gap as a magazine for the members of the Romanian Writers’ Union in Vaslui County, without excluding the contributions from writers all over the country and even Romanian authors settled abroad. At its debut, the editorial staff also included fiction writer and poet Ion Gheorghe Pricop, an expert on Eminescu - Th. Codreanu, poet Simion Bogdănescu, fiction writer Nicolae Ariton, poets Marian Constandache and Ancelin Roseti, all of them members of the Romanian Writers’ Union.
Symbolically, the front cover of the first issue of the magazine had a document-photo of Vaslui-born poet Ion Iancu Lefter and the chairman of the Writers’ Union of the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia on the stage of the “October” Palace in Chişinău on 15th January 1990. During that event which was paying homage to Mihai Eminescu, Ion Iancu Lefter asked the people of Bessarabia to abandon the communist system and prepare for reunification. They could not hasten the preparations for unification – however, on 1st March 1990 poet Ion Iancu Lefter was involved in a deadly car accident on a zebra crossing in the centre of Vaslui. Setting the new magazine under the symbolic auspices of a poet for whom national cultural heritage included all valuable contributions, coming equally from the centre and from the outskirts, meant somehow placing it in the field which linked tradition, modernity and post-modernity, on a position of aesthetic reconciliation and efficient cultural dialogue.
In its two-year existence the magazine has known two significant moments. Between May 2008 and March 2009 (from issue no. 1/2008 to issue no. 2 (7) / 2009), the “Contemporary Literary Horizon” magazine published poetry, fiction, book reviews and short studies of literary history, essays, interviews, memoirs and various other contributions of the local field, according to criteria such as theme and value; it also tried to avoid particular demands and provincial dilettantism. The new magazine was acknowledged in the cultural press in Bucharest, Iaşi and other cities. In an editorial note in 2008, by a happy slip, România Literară magazine was saluting the launch of the “Literary Horizon” as a “contemporary spiritual and cultural magazine” – a formula which seemed more proper than the one we had initially given (“European spiritual and cultural magazine”) and which we were to assimilate later on. Old and novel poetries by Ion Iancu Lefter, Ion Enache, Ioan Al. Angheluş were published; the magazine also promoted the works of recently launched authors, such as Mihai Apostu, Leonard Ciureanu, Ancelin Roseti, Dorin Cozan. All at once, fiction writings by Ion Gheorghe Pricop (“Facere” / “Genesi”, excerpt from a working novel), Iorgu Gălăţeanu, (“Şerpuind printre şrapnele şi printre viciile semenilor” /”Looping through Shrapnel Shells and through the Vices of Our Neighbours”, excerpt from a novel), Nicolae Ariton (“Apostolii” / “Apostles”, a short story) etc. were also published. Contributions from the field of literary criticism and history by authors Teodor Pracsiu (“Poet şi simbol” / “Poet and Symbol”, an essay about the poet Grigore Vieru), Ioan Baban (literary medallions from the work “Univers cultural şi literar vasluian” / “Vaslui Cultural and Literary Universe”, which was a work in progress at that time), Theodor Codreanu (the novel essay “Culpa lui Eliade” / “Eliade’s Fault”), Ion Gheorghe Pricop (“Scriitorul în ring” /”The Writer in the Ring”) etc. were published as well. In parallel, contributions from writers outside the local area could also be found in the magazine pages: Gh. Neagu, (“Alexandr”, short story), Aurel Brumă (the satirical essay “Adevărul” / “The Truth”), Florin Bălănescu (the essay “De ce-am plecat din Huşiul meu” / “Why I Left My Huşi”) and others. An excerpt from the novel “Îngerul tău narator” / “Your Narrator Angel” (sent for publication to Polirom Publishing House) of critic and Italianist Geo Vasile, was published in no. 1/2009. From the Eastern and Western Diaspora the following authors’ poems or essays were published: Theodor Damian (editor-in-chief of the “Mild Light” / “Lumină lină”, magazine in New York), Lucian Hetco (editor of the AGERO, magazine in Germany) and, from Chişinău, Ion Anton and Traian Vasilcău (both with poems), Mihai Cimpoi (with a critical essay) and Ion Proca, author of a biography of film maker Emil Loteanu. We have even ventured in the field of literary archaeology as during some issues, we published excerpts from a historical drama (“Zori de libertat” / “Freedom Dawn”), written at the end of the obsessive decade by Nicolae Munteanu, an author whom posterity did not remember, who was working for the Ministry of Education in 1944, and who was subsequently disposed of and condemned to prison by the communist regime. The manuscript was discovered by accident in the attic of a building in Iaşi by one of the author’s nephews, who gave it to us as a curiosity of literary history.
The second significant moment in our activity began with issue no. 3 (8)/April 2009, without it having been anticipated or planned, but as a result of the positive evolution of the magazine. From that moment on, the “Contemporary Literary Horizon” became an independent, bilingual and multicultural magazine, an opposite of the so-called “creative localism” which some cultural promoters had theorized and supported, but with which the magazine had never fully identified. If we were to borrow a fashionable phrase, we could say that the leap from creative localism to multiculturalism was a challenge to which the “Contymporary Literary Horizon” magazine found an adequate answer. Just partially bilingual at first (issues no. 3 – 7/2009), the magazine became fully bilingual starting with issue no. 8 (13) / Sept.-Oct. 2009. The editorial staff was subject to some changes, and an honorary editorial college was established with Ana Blandiana, Gabriel Dimisianu, Dan Mănucă, Lidia Vianu and Gheorghe Glodeanu as members. A team of external collaborators was also established. At first, it included poet and fiction writer Peggy Landsman from the United States and poet Caroline Gill from Great Britain. From the beginning the magazine benefited from a partnership agreement with the Master for the Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text, University of Bucharest, coordinated by Prof. Lidia Vianu (until 2016).
During this period, the magazine published works by Gabriel Dimisianu (diary pages), Ana Blandiana (“Recviem pentru ţăranul roman” / “Requiem for the Romanian Peasant”), Gh. Glodeanu (“Despre Mircea Eliade şi corespondenţa sa” / “On Mircea Eliade and his Letters”), Dan Mănucă (“Compendim Sebastian”) etc. Issue no. 3/2009 featured the preview publishing of the work entitled “Cele şapte peceţi ale sărutului franţuzesc” / “The Seven Seals of the French Kiss” – an excerpt from the “Apocalipsa după Vaslui” (“Apocalypse after Vaslui”), Dorin Cozan’s poem – novel, published by Humanitas Publishing House and which was successfully launched at the Bucharest International Book Festival in November 2009. Starting with no. 9 (14)/ November-December 2009, the really valuable creation of young poet Marius Ştefan Aldea from Timişoara – a beautiful promise of the current Romanian lyrical movement – was also published and promoted. The magazine also featured lyrics by Elisabeta Isanos, a classic-inspired poet and fiction writer and by neo-modernist Tatiana Rădulescu; Mihai Cantuniari offered an excerpt (“In the Army”) from the second volume of the memoirs novel “Bărbatul cu cele trei morţi ale sale” / “Man and His Three Deaths” in order to be published. A poetry anthology entitled “Childhood” / “Copilărie” by Ana Blandiana was published in issue no. 5 (10) / June 2009, and the English version was elaborated by Alina-Olimpia Miron. Among the foreign authors, the magazine published anthologies of representative works by Peggy Landsman (United States), Katherine Gallagher (Great Britain), Paul Sutherland (Great Britain)and others.
The magazine’s blog was launched in July 2009 (with content and DTP limitations imposed by freely-hosted blogs); at the end of October the launch of a new blog under the title “Contemporary Literary Horizon” was deemed as necessary. This led to an increase in the ratings of the internet-based magazine and also facilitated the establishment of some useful relations of collaboration with English and Spanish writers in the European Union and from all over the world. Among them there were Belgian poet, sociologist and historian Lena Vanelslander, Maria Dolores Garcia Pastor (Spanish novelist), Marian Ramentol Serratosa (poet, editor-in-chief of the “La Nausea” magazine) and Anna Rossell Ibern (a Germanist from the Autonomous University in Barcelona, interested in Herta Muller’s novels), essayist Peter Hart from Cambridge and poets Byron Beynon, Mark Murphy, Wayne Visser, Chris Kinsey, Pascale Petit from Great Britain, artist and medieval art specialist Galina Nikolova from Veliko Tîrnovo, (Bulgaria), poet Allan Stevo from Slovakia (published with “Jingling of Keys” / “Sunetul cheilor”, a lyrical-narrative about the Velvet Revolution), author Raymond Walden from Germany (published in issue no. 1/2010 with “Cosmonomic Freedom”, a philosophical manifesto written for our magazine), poets Rita Dahl from Finland and Elo Viiding from in Estonia (with the satirical “Mother’s Day” / “Ziua mamei”). From the United States, the magazine has published poems and essays by Michael Essig (“May Peace Be With You, My Brothers!”, a lyrical-narrative triptych written at our request, inspired by the Vietnam war in which the author took a direct part as a soldier), poems by Victor P. Gendrano, Patty Godinez, Ernest Williamson III, Burt Rashbaum, Donald Riggs (a talented writer of sonnets), civic and satirical fiction by Peggy Landsman (“Cold War”, “Mister McCormack”) and Alexander Kudera (“Over Fifty Billion Kafkas” / “Peste cincizeci de milioane de Kafka”). Under the auspices of the Welsh Dialogues / Dialogurilor galeze, Caroline Gill has done a series of interviews with British contemporary poets (Peter Thabit Jones, Chris Kinsey and Byron Beynon) for the BBC and for the “Contemporary Literary Horizon” The magazine has published an anthology of the works of Australian poet Mark William Jackson, an author with a sarcastic vision regarding post-industrial society. Some elaborate and well-documented contributions were offered to the magazine by the University reader Khem Guragain from Nepal (“Afro-American Tradition and the Aesthetic Perspectives of Toni Morrison”), writer and journalist Nazia Mallick from New Delhi (the essay “Women’s Condition in Islam”, as well as a study on the novel “Slaughter Five” by Kurt Vonnegut) and, last but not least, the essays written by young Vinisha Nambiar from Bombay, India, regarding present mentalities in contemporary Indian society (“Brave Heart”/ “Inimă neînfricată”) and so on. Upon our request, Ronaldo Pulito, a Cuban artist who has been living in exile in New York since the 1980s, has written an interesting article (“The Cuban Diaspora and Democracy”). We cannot pass over the contributions of Nigerian poet and writer Abiola Olatunde, who – having understood that multiculturalism does not annul the interest for local cultures – has offered us some interesting essays, such as “Oronshen”, “Venus from Owo” and “Theatre in Nigeria”. The “Contemporary Literary Horizon magazine has also received countless offers of collaboration (poetry, fiction and essays) from South America. These were signed by Marina Centeno (Yucatan, Mexico), Miguel Angel de Boer (Argentina), Marcela Meirelles (Uruguay) etc. The Writers’ Society of Chile has been manifesting a particular interest in the magazine and people from Argentina have recently addressed us a request to support renowned writer Miguel Oscar Menassa’s nomination for the Nobel Prize. The limited writing space prevents us from mentioning all the contributions from which the magazine has benefited up to this day and we would like to apologise to the Romanian and foreign authors whose names we could not include in this presentation, but in its second part.
The horizons of a favourable development remain wide open for the “Contemporary Literary Horizon” magazine.
English version by Elena Gheorghe