Contrappasso Magazine: Instead of a Manifesto

– INTRODUCTION: INSTEAD OF A MANIFESTO –

Contrappasso, n. (Italian). Lit. counter-step, counter-blow. The law of an equal, opposite and meaningful atonement for sin. The punishment that fits the crime. See: Virgil, The Aeneid, Book VI; Matthew 5:38; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Q XXI, Art. 1, Reply Objection 3; Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy—by which point the idea finally acquires some irony.

Why the name?

In Australia, starting a literary magazine is in itself a counter-step or counter-blow. We appear on the margins of a troubled industry. Publishers cling to their traditional methods. Our few major newspapers give less and less space to the world of books. Serious reading, we’re told, is in serious decline.

Fortunately, recent advances in print-on-demand and ebook technology offer alternative publishing possibilities on the margins. While this magazine isn’t trying to single-handedly fix Australian literary culture, it does open a channel to creative voices. What’s really needed is a flurry of contrappassi—independent publications to counter a moribund industry.

Since our home is Australia, we’re likely to find many of our writers and readers here for the time being. That said, we’re hardly waving the flag. This first issue presents work by writers from the United States and Italy as well as Australia. The subjects extend from the north coast of New South Wales to the Kansas prairies, from Melbourne to haunted Italian palaces, from the big bad American city to Vietnam, Bosnia and Herzegovina, ancient Greece, and even to Balmain on Sydney Harbour. Australia is simply where the journal lives and where it was born.

Above all, Contrappasso is an attempt to present good writing for its own sake. The fear of the decline of intelligent reading is so widespread that it proves what a huge audience is really there, primed and waiting for something new—publications with no particular agenda beyond helping writers and readers find each other. Therefore we avoid themed issues. We publish long-form pieces and don’t swear off any genre or technique, traditional or experimental. The only criterion is that the writing fulfils the deep need to make sense of the world. For that, there is always an audience.

Matthew Asprey
Theodore Ell

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