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As a description of the magazine, we are reprinting the editorials from the first and last issues of “Here -Notes from the Present”.

From “Here - Notes from the Present”, February 2005
This magazine was launched in Italy in Italian in 1999 to gather testimonies, descriptions and observations of and reflections on the private-public times we live in, in whatever forms writing allows for: notes, poetry, stories, letters, essays, diary entries, and so on. Starting from the present issue, and favouring one of the forms we have always pursued, it now becomes a diary. Also in this new edition the magazine will be published in English, and its collaborators are and will, more and more, be people from different countries in the world. In other words, it is not going to be an ‘Italian’ magazine any more. Why? Simply because it is going to talk about ourselves, and for a long time now, and more and more often, when saying ‘us’ we have not been thinking of us Italians only.
Its contributors include individuals for whom writing is a daily, at times professional, activity, as well as those for whom it is only an occasional, infrequent pursuit. In a word, intellectuals and non-intellectuals. But always with a critical eye towards priorities, social and political order, and the thinking and sensibility that, generally speaking, guide the world today. The magazine will come out both on paper and on the Internet every four months, in February, June and October, and will contain diary pages written, respectively, between September and December, January and April, May and August. Whoever would like to collaborate will be welcome, and will write, of course, what he or she prefers; but in selecting writings, we will prefer those reflections and life experiences that are not the most ‘original’, but the most incisive, revealing and free (the least contaminated, for instance, by the media blah-blah).
Why a diary? Because all together on these pages we want to be ‘witness’ to the times we are living in: to read and comment on them together, periodically offering readers the possibility of reliving a recent past, which they themselves have experienced, through a ‘chorus’ of diverse voices. Moreover, a diary is an exercise of attention. And it can also be a container for scattered thoughts, observations, and questions: those which never become ‘fully expressed’, and which, especially in our times when it is a matter of re-considering everything, may offer some precious help. Finally, a diary is the kind of ‘personal’ writing par excellence, and this magazine has always intended to be a magazine of single people who talk to and exchange ideas with single people.
In outline, what we have imagined is a written diary that originates from one’s own ‘historical-political Self’ (the ‘Self’ that actively or passively confronts political, local or global events and issues) as well as from one’s ‘social Self’ (the one that comes into prominence, for example, when taking a bus or train or going to the supermarket: the generic ‘Self’ among others), from one’s ‘role-determined Self’ (the ‘Self’ related to one’s own work and activity), and also from one’s ‘private Self’ (the ‘Self’ among friends, in family life, with one’s feelings, desires, etc).
Most of the texts you are about to read, therefore, are dated and bear an indication of the place where they were written. They reflect the urgency and sensation of great events, the sometimes more patient time of every day life, with its recurrences and its loyalties, and the apparently out-of-time character of one’s own interior life time. Some events are discussed at length, others are left out, thus reflecting the sometimes casual, ‘daily’ choices of the authors. Not all the great events are ‘covered’, there are whole days or weeks of silence, and the contents vary. As it happens with a diary.
Though this is a ‘public’ diary: almost all the collaborators knew their pages would be published, and the others gave their consent to theirs being published. Moreover, some texts were excluded and others, upon our prompting, revised. And the diary is interspersed with brief essays and some literary prose, which are spread along the pages according to this or that criterion. Which? Which criteria have suggested exclusions and inclusions, revisions, and a distribution of the texts? Surely, the interest arisen by an issue, the quality of reflection and of the writing itself. Its incisiveness, its freedom, as said above. But even a special tone, the sound of a voice, the unexpected counterpoint or harmony between one text and the other. Because this magazine, as explained on the back cover, also aims to be a sort of novel.
A sort of novel in the sense that, in addition to saying something, it aims at representing something: representing that chorus, sometimes harmonious and sometimes discordant, yet still a chorus, that the feelings, thoughts and words circulating within this discontented world are. Moreover, representing the simultaneity of different times: not only a public, or a private and interior time, but also a time of peace and a time of war, one of wealth and one of poverty, one of novelty and one of routines, in which the world revolves, all at the same time.
Such are the feelings we would like these pages to convey to the reader. As in a sort of novel. The same authors of the single texts are here also as the characters in a novel: each standing out thanks to a tone of the voice, to his or her particular character; each carrying a point of view, a special perspective. And such is, in such an interpretation, the role played by the various writing genres pursued here, from the essay to the account, from diary pages to literary prose: each of them is itself, of course, and says what it says, but it also represents a special manner and a special tone in the relationship with experience. You are therefore advised to read the pages that follow as you would read a novel, starting from the beginning and one after the other.

From “Here - Notes from the Present”, October 2011
In October 2009, this magazine halted publication. Not enough money (i.e., subscriptions), too much work (i.e., no one to help with the more executive tasks: from proofreading and layout, to printing labels and stuffing envelopes); and last but not least, an increasing sense that the process of conception and composition, which I had overseen by myself for ten years, needed to involve other people. These, in short, were the reasons for the interruption. Which I thought—which I feared—would be definitive. Instead, in January 2011, “Here” resumed publication. Promising four issues a year instead of the former three. With this issue, even though it is coming out late, the review is keeping that promise, but at the same time, it is shutting down. Definitively. What happened?
Over the course of 2010, in my search for a publisher who could help solve at least the problems in the “too much work” department, I came into contact with a publishing cooperative. The relationship, at first, seemed promising. So much so that I announced to subscribers, readers, and friends that indeed, “Here” would be resuming publication; that I raised funds, asking many people to make a special contribution; that I collected thousands of addresses of potential subscribers to whom I could present the review.
The relationship with this cooperative came to an end when I realized it would not be able to solve the magazine’s problems, not even the ones related to “too much work”. But in the meantime, many people had responded to the request for financial assistance, providing funds that I expected to last almost a year (and this turned out to be true). In addition, the vast number of email addresses I collected—of individuals, volunteer associations, CSA groups, fair trade shops, and ecotourism agencies—made me hope that the number of subscribers would grow, at least enough to continue publication. This did not turn out to be true.

A brief digression. I’m telling a story that to some degree is a personal one: of a magazine that grew out of one person’s initiative, with no funding except from other individuals, mostly in the form of subscriptions. There are quite a few magazines, and cultural initiatives in general, that exist in these conditions; and for almost all of them, finding the means and the funds to continue is quite a struggle. The story of “Here” thus becomes a bit less “personal”. As one case among many, it reflects the conditions that facilitate or obstruct the circulation of “cultural products”. The conditions that facilitate it are, essentially, money and advertising. If they are lacking, that’s a big obstacle.
Some people, looking at this situation, think that culture ought to be funded “publicly”, a vague term that generally means “by the government or similar institutions”. Which can definitely be useful: moreover, many cultural initiatives are. People sometimes say that the government, i.e., the political sphere, which unlike the market is expected to work in the collective interest, has a duty to do this, and that may be true. Nevertheless, I feel more than a little dubious, for one reason in particular. “Government”, as we know, is not synonymous with “public”, nor is “public” the opposite of “private”. Public is synonymous with the collective context, which is the context of our life as a whole. Demanding that the political sphere protect it means not making the same demand of the market, which has a far deeper impact. It means telling the market to do as it pleases. And it does.
By demanding that culture be government-funded, in short, we turn a blind eye to the question—leaving it untouched, evading it, not even raising it—of the excessive power of money, and thus of structural mechanisms, in the circulation of cultural products, but above all, by demanding an unjustified privilege for culture, we avoid the underlying problem: the excessive power of money, and thus of structural mechanisms, on our public life, and thus on our life as a whole. On work, for example, and on the political sphere itself (where the structural mechanisms are called major parties). The problem is excessive power. (“Here” has always been aware of this, hence its choice to highlight the life stories of individuals in its pages.)
Some people, looking at this situation, think instead that a magazine, like any other product, whether cultural or not, must stand the test of the market. If it doesn’t sell, that means there’s no “demand” for it. I am more than just dubious about this idea. It overlooks—among many other aspects—advertising. I don’t just mean advertising in the narrow sense, like television commercials and billboards, but the goal of advertising and the methods advertising uses to achieve it. Both are increasingly preponderant wherever words are spoken or written and images are shown.
Not that the goal and methods of advertising have monopolized all communication between people, fortunately—perhaps they never will—but their unpleasant presence can increasingly be felt, not just on television and in the newspapers, where it is rampant, and in political communication, where demagogy is merely a form of advertising and a charismatic leader is just a celebrity spokesperson. It can also be found in many films, novels, and essays; even in the language of volunteer associations; even in private conversation.
The goal of advertising is to sell something: a commodity, an idea, a cause, or a political party. And it pursues this aim by trying to convince someone, thus turning that person into a potential “customer”. The term and act of “convincing”, “persuading”, unlike forcing or bribing, have a respectable history, of course. They have contributed to the transition, when it has occurred, from violence to reason, from weapons to words. But they contain a dangerous implication that betrays that history, reverses it. As is more and more often the case. The aim of convincing someone leads to a kind of communication in which the other person is only asked to react or respond (buying, joining), not to take action or pose questions on their own. The freedom that is offered is only the paltry freedom of saying “yes” or “no” to something already laid out. Not saying something different. One can easily imagine what a society becomes and what becomes of its members when this kind of communication is preponderant.
The aim of convincing someone leads to a functional kind of communication, whose goal—unlike a good poem, a good novel, a good essay, a good conversation—is laid out in advance. You’re trying to get somewhere. And so it becomes “natural” that to get there, you use the methods that seem most efficient, no matter what harm they cause along the way. That is why advertising, in the narrow sense, has been given certain rules: for harm reduction. But aside from the fact that they are constantly broken, these rules do not get to the core of the problem. Advertising is still advertising: it lies (in the strict sense of the word or by omission), it flirts, it strives for sensationalism, for sound bites (like politicians on TV), it plays on the emotions, trying to elicit laughter, tears or indignation (like so many humanitarian campaigns), it’s morbid, titillating, etc., etc. What friend, or acquaintance, or stranger would we allow to treat us that way?
I can confidently say that “Here”, has never treated its readers that way; in fact, it has always tried to do the opposite: to stir their intelligence and sensitivity. So it will lead them wherever they want to go. Since only they should decide their own goals. This was the “demand” that the review’s “supply” hoped to encounter on the “market”. And so it could never have adopted the methods and goal of advertising in the broader sense, let alone rely on it in the narrow sense.
(Of course, it may be that none of this has anything to do with why “Here” did not manage to find enough readers to keep it going. It may be that the review simply was not good enough, not interesting enough. It’s not for me to say, I’m too closely involved. But even if “advertising” had nothing to do with the problems of “Here”, and of many other magazines and cultural initiatives, it has something to do with all of us. It may not have harmed “Here”, but it harms all of us, every day, which is much more important.)
Back to the point. I thus found myself, this year, dealing with all the problems that had led to the magazine’s suspension the year before, still unresolved. There are still not enough subscribers to cover expenses; above all, considering the efforts that have already been made to increase them, it is unlikely that this situation will change in the short run. And without any prospect of breaking even within a reasonable span of time, one can’t keep asking friends and subscribers for “special” donations.
The editorial work needed to make the review come out in a decent form has continued to weigh entirely on my shoulders. It is true that “Here” has been able to rely, almost from the beginning, on skilled, generous translators; some of them, despite working for free and obviously being entitled to a free copy, even decided to support it by subscribing or giving away subscriptions. It has been able to rely, almost from the beginning, on a very talented graphic designer who created all its covers. It was able to rely, for a while, on an editorial panel who met monthly to contribute their ideas, suggestions, critiques. But despite these invaluable forms of assistance, it has never found anyone with both the time and the technical skills needed to help me shoulder, unpaid, all the other tasks involved in publishing the review.
As for the need, after ten years, for other people to become involved in conceiving and composing the magazine, over the course of 2010 and 2011 “Here” has forged many new ties. Some people have written things especially for it, or sent in diary entries. These have been important contributions, and often wonderful human encounters, but none of these relationships has grown into an actual collaboration that turned conceiving and composing the magazine into a shared task. Moreover, that never happened with the members of the editorial panel, even though they have been friends of “Here” and personal friends of mine for much longer. Could it be that the review never managed to get past its original framing as an individual, rather than group, initiative? Perhaps.

That’s the situation. I don’t know, however, if it would have sufficed to make me say “enough”, to shut down “Here”, had it not been for another factor. And I don’t know whether this other factor regards just me or the review itself. That’s impossible to say, at least for now. It is the sense, which had already made itself felt when “Here” stopped coming out two years ago, and which has grown deeper and more definite over the course of this year, that whatever the review (or I?) could do and wanted to do, it had done. That there is now a need (or I have a need?) for something else. What, I don’t know. But as far as I’m concerned, it can only be something in which the “political” concern, for our present and our future, is accompanied by a gaze steadily trained on everything that is often wrongly deemed “unpolitical”, that transcends the “here and now”.
Such as art and poetry (in a note I jotted down while “Here” was suspended and I was exploring other things, I find a phrase by Mario Luzi: “Poetry is simply life in search of itself”). And thought. And beauty. There’s a diary entry by Laila El-Haddad from Gaza (in issue 14 of “Here”) that has always lingered in my mind; on March 31, 2006, she wrote, “I heard that phrase a lot, paradise. Of people describing their homes, their gardens, their razed orchards. They don’t see the war and the destruction and the lawlessness and all of the ugliness of occupation and anarchy. They see beauty”.
This review has always tried to keep its gaze steadily trained on what transcends the “here and now”. That might seem like a contradiction, given its title. But it isn’t. Not at all. Because the “here”, the “present”, is something it has always tried to transcend. Not only by bringing diary entries and poems and stories and essays into dialogue with each other (for instance, by intertwining terrible accounts of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in December 2008, in issue 22, with a passage from Elio Vittorini’s Conversations in Sicily about “The Pain of the Wronged World”). Not only that. Even before that. In its “form”.
I’ve always been amazed, in reading diary and blog entries and selecting pages, tearing them out of their context and arranging them to compose another one, the context of “Here”, to see them become somehow transfigured, almost turning into musical phrases (from the very beginning, in conceiving and then making this review, I’ve found myself thinking of music, of the succession and collision of themes and tempos, andante, allegretto, maestoso…). I have always been amazed, in short, to see them “become formalized”. (Have the readers seen that too? It doesn’t matter. What matters is whether they have “sensed” it, and from comments that have come in, I know that at least some have, that it could be sensed.)
In 1965, Franco Fortini wrote, “Might not the literary use of language, its formalization […] be a metaphor for a mode of human existence? […] Restoring mankind to itself, the capacity, in short—both individual and collective—to become increasingly oneself, to define oneself, to form the past, present and future. […] The “formalization” of life is the victory over the merely praxic use of it, to which we are subjected in alienated labor. […] The literary use of language is homologous with the formal use of life that is the aim and end of communism” (Verifica dei poteri, Garzanti, Milan, 1974, pp. 182-190).
Once I agreed with these words, each and every one. Now I have to leave out the last one: “communism”. But they taught me that the “form” always foreshadows, always prefigures something—a completion, a harmony, a happiness, a freedom, an emancipation—that it may be impossible to fully achieve in life, but that it is disastrous not to aspire to. The form incarnates an aspiration. “Swann found in himself, in the memory of the [musical] phrase that he had heard,” writes Proust, “the presence of one of those invisible realities in which he had ceased to believe, but to which, as though the music had had upon the moral barrenness from which he was suffering a sort of recreative influence, he was conscious once again of a desire, almost, indeed, of the power to consecrate his life.” (Remembrance of Things Past, vol. 1, Swann’s Way, transl. C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Wordsworth, Ware, 2006, p. 210.)