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December 22: Philip Rahv and Partisan Review

December 22, 2015

310086Ukrainian-born critic and essayist Philip Rahv (Feivel Greenberg), the co-founder in 1933 of Partisan Review, died at 65 in Cambridge, Massachusetts on this date in 1973. The journal he launched was originally a Communist publication, but broke with the Party line within five years of its founding, in reaction to the 1937 Moscow Trials, and grew into a highly influential, quarterly literary and political journal featuring such luminaries such as James Agee, Hannah Arendt, Sidney Hook, Alfred Kazin, Dwight Macdonald, Mary McCarthy (Rahv’s lover, and the only woman staffer), George Orwell, Delmore Schwartz, and Lionel Trilling. Rahv, largely self-educated, was a “Marxist and advocate of revolution, [but] nonetheless gazed longingly through the shiny plate glass of social prestige, rootedness, and standing on the American scene,” writes David Laskin in the New York Times. “He had a penchant for rich women — ‘a tropism for money not of his earning,’ as Diana Trilling put it — and married twice into considerable wealth.” The Partisan Review evolved into a social democratic magazine that favored modernism in literature and art and endorsed most of U.S. foreign policy. It was rumored to receive CIA funding in the 1950s and ’60s; its last issue was published in 2003. To read back issues for free, click here.

“It is ridiculous... to believe that a country as dynamic, as proficient in pulling its weight in the capitalist world-market, and as bent on military domination as the US is in this era, will somehow benignly evolve (or rather dissolve) into a peaceful welfare state. There is a limited sense in which one may speak of Great Britain today as a welfare state, though it still has plenty of troubles of its own. But the teeth of British imperialism have been pulled, whereas America’s teeth are not only intact but growing bigger all the time.” —Philip Rahv, 1967