Encounter Books is an activity of Encounter for Culture and Education, a tax-exempt, non-profit corporation dedicated to strengthening the marketplace of ideas and engaging in educational activities to help preserve democratic culture.
Encounter was a liberal, anti-Soviet monthly dedicated to two things: “a love of liberty and a respect for that part of human endeavour that goes by the name of culture.”
The magazine seemed to have come “out of nowhere”—with an immediate impact.
Kingsley Amis, W. H. Auden, Isaiah Berlin, Albert Camus, Robert Conquest, Philip Larkin, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Lionel Trilling, Richard Wilbur, and Edmund Wilson—to name just a few—all wrote for Encounter. Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford debated in its pages. Even Virginia Woolf appeared there, posthumously of course.
Melvin J. Lasky, who succeeded Irving Kristol as editor in 1958, cultivated dissident writers from across the Soviet Bloc. Joseph Brodsky, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Arthur Koestler, Leszek Kołakowski, and Václav Havel all made their mark in Encounter.
For a time, it was probably the finest magazine going—on either side of the Atlantic.
IN 1967, Ramparts, a San Francisco-based New Left magazine, published an exposé on the CIA’s infiltration of the National Student Association. As an aside, the piece implied that the CIA also supported The Congress for Cultural Freedom—Encounter’s parent foundation.
It was true. Fearing that Soviet propaganda was winning over Europe’s intelligentsia, the CIA had secretly funded Encounter—and many other publications—to promote a classically liberal, anti-totalitarian standpoint in Europe.
Although the revelation was a scandal in the intellectual world and several prominent writers defected, Encounter continued to publish through the end of the Cold War, not closing its doors until 1991.
Did the Cultural Cold War have an impact? Former-Ramparts editor Peter Collier described the CIA’s involvement with Encounter as “part of a shadow boxing match of containment with the Soviets that allowed us to get through the most dangerous period of the Cold War without having to throw thermonuclear punches.”
Franklin Foer called it “the best money that the CIA ever spent.”
In 1998, three decades after his magazine broke the CIA story, a more politically mature Peter Collier revived the Encounter name, founding Encounter Books on the maxim that the printed word can drive intelligent debate and influence the world in a positive way.
Now edited by Roger Kimball, Encounter Books continues to advance its love of liberty and the cultural achievements of the West against a rising tide of collectivist sentiment and the soft totalitarianism of intellectual conformity.
Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books. He is also an art critic for the London Spectator and National Review.
Peter Collier (1939-2019) was a distinguished author and editor for over forty years. During that time, he wrote novels, short stories and screenplays, along with best-selling biographies. In 1998, Collier founded Encounter Books in partnership with the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Collier succeeded in establishing Encounter as a premier publisher of serious non-fiction books on a wide array of topics ranging from art, culture, history, science, religion, and philosophy to a host of public policy issues.
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