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Wuppertal / Kolumne

Good prospects: literary journals of today

Close to the stream of new literary publications is the branch of literary journals flowing. This means periodicals which don’t consider themselves to be secondary media or advertising material of the book business, but are on their own missions. The view on relevant directories loses itself in the face of the multitude of titles. Carefully estimations range around 100 titles. In a time when not a few are asking what for the medium literary journal is useful at all. The significant aesthetic debates – so say the critics – would be taking place in the culture sections of nationwide newspapers; popular up-and-coming young writers are promoted trough competitions or better by the literary agencies; and journals have had their days as a testing ground for young talents anyhow – in the meantime the Net has become a better place for this. A medium which has come under pressure to justify itself. At the same time, the range of literary journals has never been more brilliant than today, they have never been more advanced in their content and form. Sometimes it even happens that a new group dares to enter the delta of the already existing – with the firm intention of letting seep through their style of writing.

While searching for an overview one has to begin with the old-established papers like "Akzente", "Sinn und Form", "Sprache im technischen Zeitalter" or "Neue Rundschau". Any of these journals is able to refer to at least 50 years of uninterrupted publication as well as an index of authors, which appears to be a list of modern classics. Moreover, each of it is under the protection of an institution, either a publishing house or a foundation. The fact that in many cases these journals rather dedicate themselves to the cultivation of traditions than to following the latest movements is probably caused by their respected readership. Despite pleasant overlapping the truth is: the young scene has its own institutions. But neither do these exist in a vacuum – literary journals need strong responding elements to be able to survive a handful of issues.

The "BELLA triste" for instance, founded in Hildesheim in 2001, is closely connected to the local courses of study "creative writing" and "cultural journalism". The large editorial department which publishes a new issue three times a year consists of those students. Text and layout are based on both pop and experiment, this is why the "literary avant-garde" feels comfortable at this location. Moreover, every three years the editors of BELLA shoulder the literary festival "Prosanova", which also treats of testing alternative formats of reading, beyond the notorious "water-glass-reading".

Members mentioned in this context (and some of them more than others) have in common that they brave the tedious farewells and focus on the strengths of their medium. As in the meantime the Net fulfils the once essential function of information better than printed work, nowadays literary journals are able to dedicate themselves to their own objectives anyways. Their original topic is the variety of literary forms. In journals may grow rampantly what in the book market has given way to the monocultures of the civil novel: Stories, poems, essays, miniatures of prose, plays, lists, manifests, conversations. They don't have to be considerate of lethargic cycles of publication – what seems interesting could be at the reader in a few weeks. In a time when the culture sections of contemporary literature – well be wrongly – certify enforced political conformity, anticipatory obedience and both aesthetic and in terms of content triviality, a look into literary journals is worthwhile more than ever

Mathias Zeiske

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