In February 1963, The New York Review of Books published its first issue, during a printer’s strike that had shut down seven New York City newspapers. Since then its in-depth essays on the arts, literature, politics, science, and history have established it as, in Esquire's phrase, “the premier literary-intellectual magazine in the English language.” This special section of our website, devoted to the 50th Anniversary, features talks with longtime contributors, selected reviews from past issues, reminiscences from former staff members, photographs and videos, and documents from the Review archives, as well as an interactive timeline of the Review’s first fifty years. We hope you enjoy this year-long celebration.
The Robert B. Silvers Lecture is an annual series at the New York Public Library, created by Max Palevsky in recognition of the work of Robert B. Silvers, editor of The New York Review of Books, of which he was a founder in 1963. The series features writers and thinkers whose fields correspond to the broad range of Mr. Silvers’s interests in literature, the arts, politics, economics, history, and the sciences.
The Irish writer and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, who died on August 30 in Dublin, was for the last forty years both a contributor to The New York Review of Books and one of its frequent subjects. In 1973, Stephen Spender, reviewing books of poetry by Thom Gunn, W.S. Merwin, James Merrill, James Schuyler, Philip Levine, Kenneth Koch, and Heaney, wrote:
It is difficult to know what to say about Seamus Heaney except that he is very good, very Irish, very honest. His poems are, I suppose, autobiographical and are direct reports on experience. Nothing, on the level of the experience, seems invented. At the same time, he is intoxicated with language, so that the event, almost cinematically described, is dense with the texture of the words.
Heaney went on to publish a number of poems, a review, and an introduction and excerpts from his acclaimed Beowulf translation in the Review. Fifteen of his books were reviewed in our pages, and we present several of the pieces below, in his memory.