A note on our 20th anniversary
By the time we went online with the first issue of The Cafe Irreal, on February 1, 1999, the brief flirtation that the American literary scene had been having with non-realist genres and experimental narratives was over; the focus had returned to the staid realism, the “cult of experience,” that has traditionally characterized American literature.
Not at all happy with this state of affairs, the two of us wanted to do something about it. Given all the talk at the time about the Internet, that something seemed obvious: start an online literary journal dedicated to non-realist fiction (and we weren’t the only ones doing this).
But we were also partially based in Prague, where the literary presence of Franz Kafka loomed large for us. And so the journal wound up publishing a very specific type of non-realist fiction—one in which the reality of the story is being constantly undermined; in which the story is an allegory pointing to so many unknown meanings; and in which the absurd becomes normal and the reader is never permitted the reassurance of normality. In other words, we published Kafkan or, as we have termed it, irreal fiction.
And if we haven’t proven any more successful than the other online literary journals at displacing the realist orthodoxy from its dominance of American letters, then, with them, we can at least claim some credit for helping to expand the range of literature being published, read and, presumably, written.
More specifically, we lay claim to the fact that the work of the 393 authors, from over 30 countries, that we have published during the past twenty years show that this irreal, Kafkan literature is an important literary genre in and of itself.
G.S. Evans and Alice Whittenburg, Coeditors
(from the Preface to our print anthology The Irreal Reader, with the text revised for the occasion. We have also revised and updated the more extensive Epilogue to the anthology, “On Webzines and Would-Be Literary Revolutions (20 Years On),” which, also appearing for the first time online, can be found in our irreal (re)views supplement).