Close to 2 a.m., in a tiny cabin of a dorm in south Paris — there was nothing glamorous about it. An empty wine bottle on the floor. Microwaved meals on the table. Scouring our old Word documents for decent writing, bickering over edits and an ecstatic PUBLISH on our slapdash WordPress creation. It was done. We had started our literary magazine in ratty pajamas.
All of us are literature majors from NYU Abu Dhabi, but prior to arriving in Paris for our semester away, we had never interacted much. In the city of lights, we found ourselves living along the same hallway. Shopping for cooking utensils at IKEA turned into midnight conversations about Moby-Dick, of all things. None of us were taking literature classes at NYU Paris. We missed it. We missed our seminars, discussions with professors and the piles of free books on our bedside tables, just waiting to be devoured. It was this new absence in our lives that led us to engage with literature outside of the classroom, more than ever before.
It started in a cafe, when one of us challenged the others to write a poem on their napkins. A Facebook Messenger group was born, where we had to share at least one poem we’d written every single day. It began casually. Funny haikus about dirty metros and the absolute magic of a Nutella crepe. But as the weeks passed, the poetry became a kind of teacher to us — teaching us about ourselves, about each other, about our relation to the city. We felt we needed to collect these works and display them somewhere. Meanwhile, the beauty of the city we were in was starting to come into question.
During a trip to a Paris flea market, we spoke to a vendor who asked where we were from. When we told him we were students from Abu Dhabi, he said he was planning to move to Dubai. He felt hated in Paris, because of his beard, his skin color, his religion. He gripped his beard as he said it, tugging at it with one fist. He said he would never be part of the city no matter how hard he worked. Moments later, we were chased through the market by a man growling into our ears, threatening us because we were unaccompanied women. This was the Paris we were horrified by; it was the one we needed to write about.
Paris taught us a lot about life outside of an academic environment. We had all been dazzled by the magic of the city when we first arrived. Even the dirtiness somehow seemed pristine, like fairy dust. But it also became a place where we grappled with loneliness, with feelings of otherness and outsider-ness and the realities of race and gender outside of the safety of a softer, more empathetic campus. The city’s facades began to crumble and peel around us. We wondered where to go, to voice our frustration. A Facebook status seemed trivial, an Instagram caption too fleeting. Who would publish some student’s thoughts about their identity or the false showmanship of Paris? Where could we go to be ugly? And who cares about poetry anyway?
We decided to carve that space for ourselves.
The name Postscript came from flipping through a battered copy of Moby-Dick, a title for one of its chapters. We decided to adopt it because a postscript — or footnote — is a place you look to find a more specific detail. In a way, it’s a marginalized idea or piece of information that helps to create or fill in a more complex story. We wanted to create a space where the complicated story is valued. We wanted to peel back the layers in popular and elite discourse, in high and low culture, deconstruct them, mix them, build them again in various ways for various new purposes, just like we had been doing with our narratives of Paris we shared between ourselves.
As a magazine, Postscript seeks to champion good and meaningful art and writing — because these forms matter. Our humanities majors are often questioned, but the impulse to create narratives, to make and share stories, has been inherent to humanity since the beginning of time. Art and writing are instrumental in the ordering and reordering of narratives that make up our world, our societies and ourselves.
By virtue of being students of world literature at NYU Abu Dhabi, we get to have unique experiences of diversity and intercultural encounters both on campus and abroad, in the classroom and out in the city. This filters into a set of equally unique perspectives that we feel must be highlighted and integrated into our work. Of course, we recognize that our experiences come with a high degree of privilege, which we do not take for granted. Instead, we hope to color our work with that awareness and shed light on the systems that allow such privilege to manifest where it does.
When looking towards the future of Postscript, we hope to continue to uphold diverse narratives. We want to be a platform for all kinds of stories, and to bring together ideas from different corners of the world. We hope to unravel hegemonies and dismantle hierarchies. Postscript has always been invested in creating dialogue between visual and written narratives, and we have started to invite visual artists onto our team. We hope to expand our visual arts involvement and become a platform for artworks that we believe challenge the status quo in the same ways our written work does. We plan to continue building Postscript into a magazine that is in print, that has an office and that eventually hires interns.
Going into the new year, we would like to thank all the readers and contributors who have supported and championed us so far. Whether within the scope of writing or art, one thing we would never adequately be able to express is our utmost gratitude and appreciation.
Artwork by Piet Mondrian