About "Geist", hedgehogs and foxes

A few notes about publishing a literary magazine

For the past two years, I have been publishing “Geist“, an independent magazine of literature and art. We have now reached the fourth number. It is in printed paper and not online, which I suppose is something very old-fashioned these days (although we do make the pdf available for free online). It is printed in a very small edition and has an even smaller number of readers. After all, who reads an independent magazine of literature and art these days?

I say “these days”, but literature, and, even more, independent literary magazines, have always been an affair for just a few. I wonder, how many people at the time have read any of the only four numbers of “The Exile”, Ezra Pound’s 1925 literary magazine, who nevertheless published important writers such as T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats and Ernest Hemingway? How many copies were printed? I doubt more than a few hundred, if that. And Jorge Luis Borges’ first literary magazine in 1921, “Prisma”, had only two numbers and didn’t even have individual printed copies —- it was a mural magazine, posted on the city walls. How many people read that? (Now one of the few remaining copies is being auctioned at a price starting at 22,000 dollars).

Of course, my little magazine has no such pretensions of achieving literary or artistic fame. I prefer to see it as just a reunion of friends. After all, most of the collaborators are people I know personally, or people whose work I know.

Is it just a vanity project? Well, I certainly do no expect to obtain any profit from that, as it runs at a loss. But I think promoting art and literature these days may be a noble endeavour in any case. We are bombarded with text and images every minute of the day in our computers and smartphones, images and texts that we soon forget second after seeing them. But a printed magazine with short texts and art, well, perhaps it can offer some repose for the eyes, the mind, or the spirit — “Geist” means spirit in German, of course.

Now, this blog is perhaps a little bit strange for some people. Most blogs are specialized in certain fixed subjects, but I tend to publish about different topics without a specific focus. I would write only about film, art and literature, if I could, but people tend to be more interested in politics or in social issues, so I try to balance things, and also add some travel articles to the mix. Also, I get bored easily if I write about just one subject.

The philosopher Isaiah Berlin once wrote an essay called “The Hedgehog and the Fox“, inspired a phrase of ancient Greek poet Archilocus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The idea is that there are two kinds of people in the world (I hear now the voice of Tuco from Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in my mind: “there are two kinds of people in this world, my friend.”) Some people focus on one subject and devote their whole life to it. I remember, for instance, someone who dedicated his whole life to study potatoes and wrote several volumes exclusively on that subject. Others — like me, as you’d have guessed — have many interests and little focus, and tend to jump, like a quick fox, from one thing to the next.

Well, I think this is enough promotion. Check out the magazine if you like. Next post will be about politics, or perhaps about travel. See you, and thanks.