Impresario, Performer, Curator, Martyr, Insubordinate, Editor


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From Eurozine:

Eliot was very much a singular editor, both as the sole individual formally responsible for all aspects of editorship and also as the only individual to hold that role through the entire publication run of his journal. Indeed, at the outset of The Criterion, Eliot famously took no salary, continuing to work full-time at Lloyds Bank and squeezing his editorial responsibilities into evenings, weekends and holidays. In this respect, he also represents the highly personal, non-professional style of editorship that intrudes into the private sphere, and not without cost to his health. At the opposite extreme, Sartre’s Les Temps modernes was an example of collective editorship from its earliest planning and founding stages. Indeed, Sartre was not even the driving force in the original collective that consisted of his contemporaries Raymond Aron, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Leiris, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the political journalist Albert Ollivier, and Jean Paulhan the esteemed former and future editor of the Nouvelle Revue Française. Finally, in between these two extremes, Thomas Mann acted as co-editor of his Swiss exile journal Mass und Wert, in a formal structure of joint editorship with two other figures: Konrad Falke, who officially at least occupied an equivalent role to Mann as Herausgeber, the German designation for the proprietorial role of publishing editor; and Ferdinand Lion, who acted as day-to-day editor-in-chief, or Chefredakteur.

But if these formal roles begin to suggest the plurality of editorial arrangements that exist at different publications, they do not begin to capture the variety of styles and approaches taken in the editorial role, a product not only of the different socio-cultural conditions at each magazine, but also of the multiple and idiosyncratic trajectories of the post holders. The result is an encounter between plural contexts and plural dispositions that generates very variable outcomes in the social practice of editorship. Indeed, the realisations of the editorial role vary with each different editor. Across nine German-speaking periodicals published in the single year 1930, for example, I have identified styles that range from the ‘impresario’ Samuel Fischer and the ‘performer’ Karl Kraus, to the ‘opportunist’ Martin Raschke and the ‘curator’ Martin Bodmer; from the ‘martyr’ Carl von Ossietzky and the ‘subordinate’ Rudolf Kayser, to the ‘insubordinate’ Kurt Tucholsky and the ‘legend’ Siegfried Jacobsohn; from the ‘choreographer’ Oscar Bie and the ‘introvert’ Herbert Steiner, to the ‘anachronism’ Herwarth Walden and the great ‘in-betweener’ Willy Haas.

Of course, this is not to say that patterns do not emerge: at one extreme, the highly personalised, charismatic and performative mode (Fischer, Kraus, Walden); at the other, the more institutionalised, bureaucratic and altogether modest realisation of the role (Steiner, Kayser, Ossietzky); and in between, those editors who successfully create a charismatic myth out of an initially institutionalised role (Haas). This last category, in particular, accommodates some of the most effective editors in my corpus, not only Haas but also Bruce Richmond at the TLS, Jean Paulhan at the Nouvelle Revue Françaiseand Peter Suhrkamp at the Neue Rundschau.

“What makes a great magazine editor?”, Matthew Philpotts, Eurozine