An unusual advertisement appeared in the September 27 issue of The New Yorker. At the top of the page, readers saw a word printed in Cyrillic characters—«Cноб» (“snob”), though the «С» was backwards—followed by an intriguing sentence in English: “Ask your Russian friends to read it to you.” The ad also reproduced the cover of a magazine with the same word, Сноб, positioned as its title. All of the contents and contributors on the cover were listed in Russian. Likewise, the ad announced in Russian—and only in Russian—that the current issue could be purchased at Barnes and Noble. So who is the audience of this Russian-language publication that advertises in The New Yorker and addresses its potential readership in two languages?
Well, according to its website, Snob is a magazine “for people who live in different countries, belong to different cultures, speak different languages, but think in Russian.” A couple of weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal ran a story about the magazine with comments by Snob’s deputy editor in chief, Masha Gessen, who explained its global reach: “Russians living abroad have been rediscovering Russia … [They now feel] secure enough to go back to the culture that unites us.”
Its perceived Russian audience is cosmopolitan, and so are its competitors. Snob seeks to place itself on a par not with Russian newspapers or thick journals, but with “high-minded” Western magazines like Vanity Fair and—you guessed it—The New Yorker. With any luck, this means that some of the best Russian writing will find a new audience. Indeed, Snob hopes to provide readers with material that rewards them with “pleasure from the very process of reading.”
Of course, nothing these days is just a magazine. Snob bills itself an “international media project for Russian-speaking professionals around the world.” Trying to sort through the various dimensions of this “project” has already bored and irritated me. I just want to read their stuff, not pay extra to use a social-networking site or join an “invitation-only club.”
Will they publish poems? Unfortunately, I don’t know yet. I can’t tell from Snob’s website whether the current issue has poems in it, but I’ll keep a watchful, hopeful eye on their pages and report back on any significant poetry features. For the moment, prose contributions by the likes of Zakhar Prilepin and Olga Slavnikova should keep me busy.