transition April 1927
Of all the values conceived by the mind of man throughout the ages, the artistic have proven the most enduring. Primitive people and the most thorougly civilized have always had, in common, a thirst for beauty and an appreciation of the attempts of the other to recreate the wonders suggested by nature and human experience. The tangible link between the centuries is that of art. It joins distant continents in to a mysterious unit, long before the inhabitants are aware of the universaliyt of their impulses.
As years have passed, truths have turned to folly and back again, countless times. By increasing knowledge, sorry has surely been increased, but joy also. The quest for beauty has not yet proven futile. It has been consistently in good standing as a means of enriching life. It has been the lest destructive of all the major urges.
We hear much talk, nowadays of the encroachment of commercialism upon the field of art, of the dominance of the acquisitive spirit and the dwidling of the reflective or contemplative faculties. The thread does not seem grave, to us. Our age doe not appear less picturesque, than another, nor less likely to stimulate a desire to perpetuate it, along with its predecessors, in terms of words, pigments and tones. The artist is harassed by laws, a bit, and by economic pressure. This is hardly new. Works of great originality, the result of long labor on the part of a superior mind, are not grasped in a moment by hasty, lesser folk. This is not ground for despair.
Art has never confused itself with commerce. The same gulf exists today. It has always been surmounted chauvinism, greed and vulgarity.
Perhaps, because america is young, from the white man’s standpoint, and has been constantly adapting itself to changing conditions, without a single tranquil decade, it has been less affected by literature, music, or apinting than any other land. Surely it is the only country, in recent centuries, which has accepted ready-made cultures from other peoples before it having developed one characteristically its own. The early settlers, if their architecture is indicative, were not insensitive to beauty, but they destroyed or ignored the wealth of art which the Indians offered them and let the amazing monuments and relics of the Mound Builders be broken with plowshares.
Lately, Americans have shown unmistakable signs of artistic awakening. Peots and novelists have come forward with work of unquestionable genuineness and originality. More important, still, a small group of intelligent readers has developed. As yet there is only a beginning but it gives glorious promise.
It is quite natural that the new intereset in American literature should stimulate a curiousity aobut the literature of other lands. Languages are badly taught., in the United States, and geographic isolation makes it still more difficult to follow contemporaneous European literature. Translators have often selected the easiest or the least expensive works. Coincidently, the government has placed such obstacles in the way of frank expression that the work of almost every capable American novelist has been suppressed, in whole or in part. Publishers have become fraknly merchants and the magazines, with one or two brilliant exceptions, have discarded al literary pretensions. In spite of these difficulties, men have continued to write and to interest themselves in books and poems. The modern American writesr, composers and painters are gradually gaining recognition abroad.
transition wishes to offer American writers an opportunity to express themselves freely, to experiment, if they are so minded, and to avail themselves of a ready, alert and critical audience. To thewriters of all other countries, transition extends an invitation to appear, side by side, ina language Americans can read and understand. The result should be mutually helpful and inspiring. Contributions will be welcomed from all sounrces and the fact that an author’s name is unknown will assure his manuscript a more favorable examination.
We do not hold with the dogma that contemporary works of art cannot be evaluated. It is easier to judge a contemporary work because it arises from souces more readily and directly understandable. No rigid artistic formulae will be applied in selecting the contents of transition. If the inspiration is geniune, the conception clear and the result artistically organized, in the judgement of the editors, a contribution will be accepted. Originality will be its best recommendation. Neither violence nor subtlety will repel us.
We believe, that although art and literature are, in many quarters, growing more definitley racial and national in coloring and texture, their appeal is becoming distinctly international. The reader is coming into his own. Whatever tendencies appear, we want them to be reflected in transition if they have real artistic value. The bulk of the space will be devoted to stories, plays, sketches or poems. Critical articles will be subjected to the same tests as other kinds of creative work. If writers employ longer forms that can be included in toto, extracts will be given.
At the outset, the editors have found the foremost writers of all countries
ready to cooperate in a most courteous and generous fashion, and we wish to
acknowledge this with thanks. We should like to think of the readers as a homogeneous
group of friends, united by a common appreciation of the beautiful, - idealists
of a sort, - and to share with them what has seemed significant to us.