transition, no. 16-17, featuring the manifesto 'Proclamation'


This is the manifesto for transition, one of the most influential avant garde magazines published in Paris in the 1920s. It declares transition’s vision for ‘The revolution in the English language’ and concludes with the final point, ‘The plain reader be damned’. The lower-case ‘t’ of the magazine’s title is intentional, and provoked outrage when first published. Eugène Jolas later admitted that they decided on this innovation primarily to antagonise the critics.[1]

Promoting artistic experimentation and ‘the metamorphosis of reality,’[2] transition was founded by three Americans – Eugène Jolas, Maria Jolas and Elliott Paul – who had moved to Paris, the creative capital of Europe. In the early 20th century dozens of ‘exile’ artists and writers, like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce, came from America, Britain and across Europe in pursuit of artistic freedom and a more liberated society. transition strove to embody this international spirit of modernism. It was, in Eugène Jolas’s words, ‘the vision of a linguistic and creative bridge between the countries of the Western world’.[3]

In 1927, after being introduced to Joyce through their mutual friend, Sylvia Beach, transition famously serialised Work in Progress, later known as Finnegans Wake. The magazine became a platform for defending and promoting Joyce’s notoriously difficult last work.

[1] Eugene Jolas, ‘Transition: An Occidental Workshop, 1927-1938’, 1949, from Eugene Jolas: Critical Writings, 1924-1951 edited and with an introduction by Klaus H Kiefer and Rainer Rumold (Northwestern University Press, 2009), p. 122.

[2] Ibid., p. 123.

[3] Ibid., p. 121.

Full title:
June 1929, Paris
Eugène Jolas
© Betsy Jolas, sole copyright holder for the works of her father Eugene Jolas.
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Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial licence
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British Library

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