The New World Journal
October 1964 – January 1967 Preserving our literary heritage
By Petamber Persaud
June 18, 2006
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The NEW WORLD journal comprising 48 fortnightly and two monthly issues was one such periodical that pushed the frontier of magazine production further than its contemporaries, trying to get to the crux of the matter – examining the parameters of a new world, a new Guyanese world after independence in May 1966. A very slim publication, the NEW WORLD was seemingly a complete package, offering news analyses, features, literature, arts and culture sections.
Turning back those pages now, readers will be treated to topical issues of the critical 1960s including essays on sugar, the rice bill, a coalition government, sexual equality, trade unionism, the Moyne Report. Readers could relive debates like the one on art between Philip Moore and Donald Locke. There are features on drama by Francis Farrier, and Ken Corsbie, on the cinema by N. D. Williams, ‘language and literature’ by Jan Carew, culture by Martin Carter, the dilemma of the artist in British Guiana, jazz and thoughts on a National Orchestra. Space was made for short fiction, extract from a novel by Wilson Harris, and poems by Slade Hopkinson, Cyril Dabydeen, Carter, Annette Warren, Edwina Melville, Ian McDonald, Arnold Itwaru, among others.
There are papers on poetry by Walcott, and McDonald; reports on the Third Conference of Caribbean Scholars and Caribbean Writers and Artists Conference; biographical sketches/stories on E. R. Burrowes, Manna Dey, Sparrow, Joe Solomon, and Moses Bhagwan. In the world of sport, readers will get something on Lennox Beckles, boxing by Ivelaw Stevenson, sport with Reds Perreira. And space was made to showcase the art work of Leila Locke, Judith Drayton and Emerson Samuels. All of that was seamlessly packaged in slim volumes, numbering less than two scores and ten pages each.
But that was only part of the magazine – the glorious end products. There was, unfortunately, a downside to the story that is instructive to local writers, editors and publishers. Martin Carter, in a letter introducing the journal, stated, ‘the editor and the contributors, I know, are well aware of the high death rate of magazine. But at least they can console themselves with the thought that in order for something to die, it first had to be alive’. Some 28 months and 50 issues later, the editors of NEW WORLD stated, ‘this is the last issue…we apologise to our readers for late publication, our first failure in this respect. It is due largely to the same difficulties which led to our decision to close’. Some of those difficulties included high cost for printing, soliciting and servicing subscribers, distributions to local and overseas bookshops, poor sales and limited market, and in respect to this particular journal, to maintain the standard set, full time management was required. Above all, note must be made of the following statement by the journal’s editor, David DeCaires, admitting that ‘the economics of producing a small magazine are basically unsound; therefore, the magazine was never on a sound financial footing’.
Lesson learnt, David DeCaires (and his associates) avoided that shortcoming in establishing a successful daily newspaper, Stabroek News, progressing gradually from a weekly.
The NEW WORLD series of publications came out of the New World Group which was formed ‘at a time when Guyana was going through a period of great social and political upheaval’ of the 1960s. The group was formalised after many informal meetings of young Guyanese professionals interested in political and social analysis, a young brigade shunning philistinism for a new world of debate and dialogue. Those informal meetings were centred around Lloyd Best who came to Guyana in 1960 under the auspices of the United Nations to advise the Cheddi Jagan Government on setting up a planning unit.
‘In an attempt to grapple with the situation, the Group, produced the first and one of the most important issues of the NEW WORLD in 1963’, which was an attempt to promote a coalition government. The main article was written by Best in association with Miles Fitzpatrick’, a lawyer who was previously a senior member of the PPP.
NEW WORLD was intended to be an independent journal combating philistinism with objective analysis. Carter was in support for such a policy, ‘in our present condition few things can be as important as objectivity’. There was a need for such a magazine and NEW WORLD effectively fulfilled its mandate; opting to close when it couldn’t maintain its high standard.
Good literature, good literature with universal appeal will surface again and again, so it was no surprise when the NEW WORLD series of journals were reprinted into one great reference book.
Sources: * Interview with David DeCaires, June 9, 2006, Georgetown, Guyana.
* Material supplied by DeCaires
* Available copies of NEW WORLD in the National Library.