Publish and be bombed : Neo-Nazi terrorism has hit publishing. Frederic k Baker reports : Postcard From Klagenfurt

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The Independent Culture
Lojze Wieser is a publisher, but not a conventional one. That was clear from his first words when we met in his offices in the Austrian city known to German speakers as Klagenfurt and to the local Slovene minority as Celovec: "The things you have to do as a publisher these days. I've just spent the whole day ringing round the world, trying to get one of my author's wives out of Sarajevo." In the end it was a 500 mark taxi journey that got the Serbian wife of Wieser's Bosnian star author Djevad Ka rahasan out of the beseiged city.

This incident is typical of Wieser, who, through the press that bears his name (Wieser Verlag), has been helping unknown authors and languages for the last seven years. According to the ex-marketing manager of an insurance company, the world is divided into big and small languages. As a born and bred member of the Slovenian speaking minority he sees it as his job to help the small languages escape extinction at the hands of the linguistic big guns like German, French and English. As he told me: "One language dies out once every 14 days. That is an absurdity and an arrogance from which wars result, like the one we have on our doorstep."

This autumn, chauvinist arrogance arrived on his doorstep. In the hyperbolic world of publishing the word "explosive" is often used to describe a book's contents. On 4 October that was no exaggeration, when a package addressed to Lojze Wieser was found to contain explosives designed to inflict the same damage as the letter bomb that nearly killed the mayor of Vienna last year. Luckily it was spotted and defused. There followed five death threats, some of which read like the first lines of some cheap thriller. "We have decided that you will not see next year". Swastikas clearly indicated that the "we" referred to neo-Nazis.

As Wieser told Vienna's newsmagazine Profil: "I believe that these actions are carried out by Austrians but that they are internationally planned. The right is becoming stronger in the whole of Europe. I think that we are dealing with an international terrorist movement which goes into action regionally."

After raiding a house in Austria on 16 November, the police announced that by his own admission 22-year-old Andreas H. was the author of three of the letters. Unlike Andreas H. it is the diversity of his homeland that Wieser enjoys. "I love the diversityof cultural expression in this region. Within 300km three great linguistic families; the Slavic, the Germanic and the Latin come together. But there are also other small cultures like the Friulians of northern Italy. "

Lojze Wieser has divided his publishing operation between a German language side in Klagenfurt and the Slovene side in Ljubljana, the capital of the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia. "We have done 40-odd titles in Slovene and from our investment havegot about 25-30 per cent back."

This border-hopping has enabled him to see that he is out of step with his linguistic brothers in Slovenia where the present Yugoslav war started. "In the past few years it was very clear that everything that came from further south was of no interest for the Slovenes. I already observed this trend in 1988-9. Despite this we published exactly this sort of book, because something had to be done to oppose this trend. If one published only what people wanted it would be better that one put a bullet in one's head."

The future is dominated by two projects, the first of which is "The Bosnian Library" which he recently launched in the presence of Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitsky. The aim of the network of 20 European publishers set up by Wieser is to distribute books to exiled Bosnians in whole of Europe. His second major project is called "Edition Hotel Europa" and is named after the Hotel Europa, a meeting place in Sarajevo for intellectuals, that has now been destroyed. This series aims to produce at least one book per year and to have it translated into over 200 other languages.

With the zeal of a revolutionary and a salesman he told me, "Whether the authors come from areas where there is or isn't war or whether their languages are obscure or well-known . . . what they don't need is pity, what they need is readers. The written word is like snowball rolling down a slope, it gains its own impetus and sets things in motion that it can no longer influence." Now the fight is on to make sure that it is his books, and not neo-Nazi slogans, that set off the storm. "We in E urope have agreat democratic potential which has not been awakened. What I can do is what I have done up to now; publish books and translate books in order to show the diversity of cultural expression in Europe and to fight against the marginalisation o f the smalllanguages in world literature."

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