Politics, Ethics, and Art

When we launched The Literarian a little more than a year ago, I was determined to create a magazine that would showcase a wide array of voices and styles, from the traditional to the way-off-the-grid, with the commonality being work that was arresting, and—for want of a better word—necessary. Putting together this issue, I was struck not so much by the variety of ways of being on the (virtual) page as I was by the breadth of experience reflected here, and by the complexity of the questions—the obsessions—being probed.


We begin with Thomas Mallon’s list of five indispensable books about politics (to which we need to add Mallon’s own Watergate.). Next, Ha Jin, whose most recent novel is Nanjing Requiem, reflects on literature and evil—and of course by extension country, self, and evil. Louis Begley recalls reading nonstop while a child in Poland during World War II, and finding invaluable wisdom in the novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz: “His realistic depiction of carnage, a subject that in real life had become familiar to me, lent authority to his resolutely optimistic view of history…” In contrast to Sienkiewicz's realism, Ramona Ausebel (video) reads from her brilliant debut novel, No One is Here Except All of Us, in which imagination—storytelling—is the only release for a Jewish village in Romania in 1939. In original short stories, Lynn Bey examines slippery moral terrain in post-Apartheid South Africa and Joan Leegant investigates the emotional relationship between Israelis and Germany, and between Israel’s citizens and its newly arrived refugees.


Elsewhere in the issue, Heidi Julavits takes it off the physical plane and discusses alternate reality in fiction (with the contention that all fiction is an alternate reality). Roy Kesey quickly trips us back through time, while both Richard Peabody and Caleb Leisure look at the darkly liberating power of visual art. We’re also pleased to showcase Josephine Rowe’s chilling story about domestic violence, via our featured international journal, Meanjin.


Thanks are due this issue to our intern, Lexi Freiman.


Now, start reading.



Photo by Claire Holt


Dawn Raffel's illustrated memoir, The Secret Life of Objects, will be published in June. The launch party at the Center for Fiction will be June 13. She is also  the author of two story collections, Further Adventures in the Restless Universe and In the Year of Long Division, and a novel, Carrying the Body. Her fiction has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, BOMB, Conjunctions, Black Book, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, The Quarterly, NOON and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. She has taught in the MFA program at Columbia University, and at Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Montreal; she'll be teaching in Vilnius, Lithuania this summer.