The fifth issue of POINTS was published at the beginning of 1950 and was noted as POINTS Nº 5 - January-February 1950.
Commentary © James A. Harrod, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
James Campbell discusses Richard Wright’s arrival in Paris
and the small magazine scene in his opening chapter of
EXILED IN PARIS, Un Enfant du Pays:
In 1947—48, there was nothing. The young writer stepping off the
boat, with all the proper names of literary Paris sounding echoes of a
grand society in his head, found that there was nowhere to take his
work. Wright was unusual among Anglophone artists in becoming
actively involved in the French domestic literary scene.
Things improved between spring 1948 and spring 1949, when
three literary magazines came into being. Two of them were bilingual,
with writing in both English and French. One of those was not even
new, being a reincarnation of the 1920s magazine transition. Whereas
the original transition had been a hotbed for American modernism,
however, the revived version consisted mainly of translations of work
by the French avant-garde. It was edited by a Frenchman who wrote
in English, George Duthuit, to whom the title had been sold by Maria
Jolas, and its connection with the generation of Joyce and Co. was
through an Irishman who wrote in French.
Samuel Beckett's contributions to Duthuit's transition were mainly
in the role of (uncredited) translator. (On an occasion when some of
his own poems were printed, Duthuit poked gentle fun at Beckett's
poor spoken French, in the list of contributors.) Like its forerunner,
Duthuit's magazine was open to the work of painters, and Beckett
made one enduring contribution, a set of "Three Dialogues with
Georges Duthuit," an aesthetic manifesto in the form of conversations
B. Total object, complete with missing parts, instead of partial ob-
ject. Question of degree.
D. More. The tyranny of the discreet overthrown. The world a flux of
movements partaking of living time, that of effort, creation, libera-
tion, the painting, the painter. The fleeting instant of sensation given
back, given forth, with context of the continuum it nourished.
Not much of a welcome there for the fresh-faced young writer with
his Hemingwayesque short stories in his satchel. For that he would
have to wait until February 1949, when the magazine Points was born.
Points was also bilingual and had two editors, one for each language,
but it was more innocent than transition (note the uppercase "P"). It
also had more money, being owned and edited (in the English depart-
ment) by Sinbad Vail, the son of Laurence Vail, a Montparnasse "char-
acter" of the 1920s, and the American heiress Peggy Guggenheim.
So eager was Guggenheim for the published-in-Paris tradition to be
extended, with her genes, that she bullied her son into it. The money
she provided was sufficient for him to get on with doing the things
he liked best—driving fast cars, playing billiards, drinking—and still
put out regular issues of Points.
The result was a far cry from Duthuit's gnomic "tyranny of the
discreet otherthrown." According to one contributor, Vail's method
of editing the magazine was to "wait until he had enough manuscripts
to fill up eighty-four pages and then take the lot down to the printer's,
and that was that." Try as he might. Vail could not rouse in himself
an enthusiasm for literature. Poetry, especially, bored him. In an
editorial written when the magazine reached five years of age, he
looked back with weary languor on Point's origins:
It was in the summer of 1948 that I first thought about starring a
magazine. I was in Venice on holiday, a holiday from God knows what
as I was not doing anything anyway ... I vaguely thought about
opening an art gallery in Paris, but I knew even less about art than
literature . . .
I often wonder why anyone ever starts a little literary magazine in
the first place. There are vague ideas running around that they are
created to publish writing that never has a chance in the commercial
press, "new" writing, "experimental" writing and even "good writing"
. . . but I think the real reason is to give the editor and his pals an
outlet for their own work plus an egotistical desire to acquire "fame"
or "notoriety" which in other circles are achieved by eating goldfish
At least now there was a space where the writer could write in
English in Paris, and enough Guggenheim money ("I vaguely thought
of opening an an gallery in Paris . . .") to ensure that it did not
succumb—like almost every other little literary magazine—to a short-
age of funds. Points even paid for the work it published—3,000 francs
for a short story (about £2 or $6), less for a poem. It wasn't much,
but writers used to publishing their work in little magazines might
have been surprised to be paid at all.
Vail continued to favor prose, eventually setting up a Prix Points
and assembling a short-story anthology ("I once thought that all the
stories in this anthology were very good. Now I think I'm bored with
all of them"). He sacked his poetry editor in time for Points 16, and
in the same issue cut out the French writing: "We discovered that we
hardly had any French readers," he wrote in that favored tone of things
going from bad to worse. From having been bimonthly, Points began
to appear as a quarterly, and during some quarters did not appear at
all, falling victim to the law of diminishing returns which affects all
magazines of new writing—the "newer" the writing, the greater the
difficulties of survival.
What kept Points going for so long (it folded in 1955), apart from
money, was Vail's easygoing manner, which attracted some more
serious literary types to the magazine's offices on rue Bernard Palissy.
Vail's highborn ennui ("I've been told to try and be original for once
and not write an editorial; but then I do so little writing and it is so nice
to see one's name in print, even in one's own magazine.") concealed a
knack for attracting contributors of genuine quality to his pages. In
the first six months of its existence, Points published poems by David
Gascoyne, Philippe Jaccottet, Nazim Hikmet; stories by Herbert
Gold, Rene de Obaldia, Henri Thomas, and Michael Hamburger;
articles on French theater (by Arthur Adamov) and on the phenomenon
of Jean Genet, whose Journal du Voleur had just been published in French.
Not a bad half year for any new magazine.
From EXILED IN PARIS Copyright © 1995 by James Campbell.
All rights reserved.
As noted by Sindbad Vail in his introductory comments POINTS 5 introduced advertisements for other small magazines and publishers on its back pages.
POINTS Nº 5 differs from the proceeding numbers in
both format and content. After four numbers, figures show
that POINTS sells better to English speaking readers than to
French ones. It was therefore decided to increase the number
of texts in English and decrease the number of French ones.
In future issues there will only be two or three French short stories,
a poem or two and an article on contemporary French
literature. Also the editors felt that though they personally
liked the old cover, that it was not sufficiently explanatory.
One kiosk dealer told us that a certain lady had bought
POINTS under the impression that it was a knitting magazine.
So a few words have been put on the cover and the size
changed to a more conventional one. We have also decided
to exchange advertisements with other little magazines; so any
other editors wishing to do so need only contact us. For the
benefit of poets we now have a Poetry Editor, as the under-
signed does not feel properly qualified in that department.
All rumours floating around Paris that POINTS is going
to fold up after this issue are quite unfounded and untrue.
We have more good material coming in than ever and the
possibilities to go on printing for some time.
The next number of POINTS will probably be devoted
mostly to love stories (not the True Story kind). Any good love
stories will be carefully read and considered for publication,
The editors of POINTS wish all success to the new Irish
literary magazine ENVOY printed in Dublin. Copies of
ENVOY may be ordered through our office until proper
distribution is effected in Paris.
Once again the authors published in POINTS 5 would include several who would go on to notable careers in literature.
SINDBAD VAIL — Notes by the Editor
JACK R. GUSS — V-Day Plus
NOEL ROUX — Le Petit Chaperon Gris — La Mort du Consul
JAN RABIE — The Owl and the Morning
MICHAEL HAMBURGER — Mademoiselle Monet
HENRI THOMAS — Le Serpent — Le Retour d’Hélène
W. STUART HENRY — Déclaration d'Amour
WILLIS BARNSTONE — Silent Meeting
OTTO FRIEDRICH — Three Stories (The Man with growing eyes — The Counterfeiter — The movie critic who loved movies)
SHARON SCIAMA — Poem
ADRIAN VAN DER VEEN — The Shadow of the Mill Sails
ROY BONGARTZ — Several Beers in the American Zone (A Trip to Germany)
DANIEL CRIVAULT — Petite Note sur un Grand Sujet (La littérature française)
MARCEL SCHNE1DER — I. — Le Surréalisme
HERB GOLD — Book Review (The Man with the Golden Arm, by Nelson Algren)
GASTON GAOUA — Sehastien Velpuche (finis)
ERNEST LESAVAN — Le Concours et note
POINTS 5 also included brief biographical notes on the contributors:
NOTES ON THE CONTRIBUTORS
WILLIS BARNSTONE : 22, American. Primarily a translator (Spanish into English, notably Spanish poets Antonio Machado and Vicente Aleixandre. Now working on a book of verse and teaching English and French in Athens.
ROY BONGARTZ : 25, born Dayton, Ohio, now studying in Grenoble. Started
writing for college paper in U.S.A. First printed by Points (Nº 1) then (N° 4) and also by Horizon.
OTTO FRIEDRICH : 20, American. Was police reporter on Des Moines
Register and an editor of Harvard Crimson. Has published critical
articles in Signature, Prisma, Theme and Zero. Earns living in Paris
translating movie scenarios.
HERB GOLD : 25, Amierican. Won short story contest of Points (See N° 4).
Is now writing a novel and is working, under Fullbright Bill in Paris.
DANIEL GRIVAULT : 27, French. Works in a bookstore. Chief joy reading
contemporary literature and then writing critical essays on that subject.
JACK R. GUSS: 30, born Sebastopol, Russia, now American. Edited Essai
an Anglo-German magazine in Zurich in 1948. Also wrote for Story.
Now has teaching job with the War Dept. in Germany.
MICHAEL HAMBURGER : 26, English. Contributes to Penguin New Writing
and New Statesman and Nation. First book of poems due out in Spring 1950.
"Mile Monet" is first short story to be published.
W. STUART HENRY : 24, born Glasgow. A painter who writes occasionally.
JAN RABIE : 29, born of Afrikaan (Boer) parents in South Africa. Has
published four novels in Afrikaan. The Owl and the Morning is first
story to be published in English.
NOEL ROUX : 34, French, Has published one novel, writes for "L'Heure
Nouvelle" and 84.
HENRI THOMAS : 35 Born St-Die, France. Prolific writer, three novels and
three collection of poems published; also translations from English and
German, Writes for Nouvelle Revue Française, Mercure de France,
Mesare, Fontaine, etc. Also an editor of 84.
MARCEL SCHNEIDER : 34, French, has appeared in Points (N° 1) also writes
for La Table Ronde and Gazette des Lettres. Has has four novels published in Pans
(latest just out Le Ghasseur Vert), Is a professor at a big Paris lycee.
SHARON SCIAMA : 22, born Nice. Writes poetry in English for personal plea-
ADRIAN VAN DER VEEN : 28, born in Holland. Is literary editor of the
Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant. Points published his first short story in
English The Shadow of the Mill Sails which he himself translated from
the original Dutch version.