Description of a Struggle: The History of The Prague Revue
The 1990s was a wild, wonderful, idealistic decade in Prague. Excellent exchange rates and the possibility of a relatively uninhibited way of life lured expatriates in droves to the Czech capital, which came to be known as “the Left Bank of the ‘90s.” In short, it was the perfect time for the founding of a literary journal, a journal that would both bring the world to Prague and bring Prague to the world.
It was with just such ambitions that five young writers, Max Munson, Jason Russell, David L. Conhaim, Todd Morimoto and Will Pritts joined their teeming minds and hollow wallets to create Bohemia’s journal of international literature, the publication which came to be known as The Prague Revue. And it is with great pleasure that we published, twelve years later, in 2008, issue 8, featuring work from renowned writers such as Czech novelist Ivan Klíma and American poet Alicia Ostriker, as well as photography from Martin Desht and a series of paintings by Edward Hopper. That, at least, is the short version of the story. But, as usual, the devil is in the details.
In 1995, the Jáma Revue was published. The Revue was named after the restaurant owned by half of the editorial board, an establishment which hosted a weekly series of readings that would become a mainstay in Prague. The Jáma Revue featured writing in all genres from an international cast of contributors, thus establishing one of the fundamentals of The Prague Revue; namely that it sets limits only on the quality, not the style of the work published. In this regard, The Prague Revue was described as “daring and original” by Rebekah Bloyd, co-translator of Miroslav Holub’s The Rampage (Faber & Faber).
By the winter of 1996, the editors decided to rename the publication, and The Prague Revue was born. Though the pace of publication slowed, the Revue was published steadily for six years, gaining stature both in Europe and abroad, and garnering positive reviews from a number of journals and newspapers. In the process, The Prague Revue published writing from countries as distant as Guam and Yemen. Also featured were a number of first-time translations such as a series of Bohumil Hrabal’s early poems, and Migeul de Unamono’s “Mist,” a classic work of Spanish modernism little-known outside Spain.
Inevitably, however, the editors aged. Trading their bohemian youth for more comfortable ways of life, the founders of The Prague Revue got married and some moved as far away from Prague as California, Italy and Israel. Though the desire to publish remained, the editorial process of discussion and voting was understandably hindered by physical distance. In short, The Revue had lost its geographical and conceptual core. 2001 saw the publication of issue 7, which would be the final issue published for seven years.
In 2007, however, the addition of an enthusiastic young poet and editor helped bring The Prague Revue back to life. Over the next year, submissions of poetry, fiction, essays, photography, book reviews and art were received from five countries. Because of its long and highly-regarded history, The Prague Revue was immediately able to return to and even surpass its previous standard of quality. So in May 2008, the long-awaited issue 8 was launched in Prague to a crowd of readers and writers that spanned generations.
The decision to resurrect The Prague Revue brought about a host of questions, the most pressing of which was whether literature and art could still be relevant forces in a world that had changed drastically in the seven years The Revue had been on hiatus. It wasn’t long, however, before we’d come to an agreement on the answer.
Every generation of artists and writers has asked a similar question, and every talented generation has found a unique way of answering. The history of literature and art is a chronicle of humanity’s acceptance or rejection of its society and creative heritage. The twentieth century alone is an encyclopedia of creative movements: Modernism, Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Imagism, Projectivism…titles that express the wide variety of strategies artists have used to perceive art and the world in new ways. While they primarily reveal our need for categorization, these titles and the movements they describe also reveal the necessity of artists and writers to engage in stylistic dialogue with the past, present, and future.
Prague in 2008 is as culturally significant and cosmopolitan as Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin, all cities known for their vibrant artistic and literary communities. But what can we hope to accomplish by publishing The Prague Revue after a seven-year hiatus? We aim to rebuild this forum for every genre of contemporary writing and art from Prague and around the world, a forum through which artists and writers can engage society and each other. By providing a venue for the most engaging and engaged art and literature from around our world, The Prague Revue will both promote and inspire creative reactions to the urgencies of the twenty-first century.
Issue 8 is our renewal; a living relic, which is both a record of achievement and the promise of continued dedication.