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Correspondent Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 13:18 GMT
Publisher fights for small languages
Book week in Lubljana is one sign of an upsurge in Slovene literature
This story is part of 'Our Nationality' shown on BBC2 at 18:50 on Saturday 13th May

Lojze Wieser - a Fighter for the small Languages of Europe.

"The Botanist Kneip once said 'that wherever there is a poisonous plant, there is an antidote growing nearby'. In a Europe, sick with nationalism, I believe that antidote is literature", so says Austrian publisher Lojze Wieser, fighter for the rights of the small languages of Europe.

Wieser's Austrian publishing house funds Slovene language titles
Government prizes, but also death threats have been the reward, for the man who is based in the city that is the power base of Jörg Haider. A city with two names: Klagenfurt in German and Celovec in Slovene.

As a member of the Slovenian minority in the southern Austrian province of Carinthia, Lojze has spent his life fighting against the attempts of the big languages of Europe like German, to sideline his mother tongue.
Lojze Wieser, publisher and champion of national cultures
He founded "Wieser Verlag" 20 years ago, to realise his dream of a Europe in which literature is judged by the quality of its writing, and not by the size of the language it is written in.

Wieser Verlag is a bridge across the east-west divide in Europe, specialising in bilingual books, and translations - not just from Bosnian, Serbian, Albanian and Slovene authors into German, but also vice-versa.
Wieser promotes national cultures and their communication

Keeping alive the varied cultures and histories of Europe

Weiser has his critics and his admirers, but both admit his publishing house has made a difference. "His role is of double significance. He was the first private publisher after the long period of state controlled publishing. From his perspective he was something new and fresh... His second significance was... to cross the borders of Slovenia. In the beginning he covered central Europe, later he spread his area to include the Balkans, which was new and brought him lots of problems." (Jozef Skolc, Slovenian Culture Minister).

One language dies out every 14 days. That is an absurdity and an arrogance from which wars result, like the one we have on our doorstep

Lojze Wieser
Extremists hate Lojze. For the psycopathic nationalist, Franz Fuchs he was worth a letter bomb. In the days of Yugoslav Communism he was too captialist, in the new independent Slovenia, his projects were often not Slovenian enough.

Frederick Baker first met the unconventional publisher, when he was organising the escape of one of his Bosnian author's families from Sarajevo, during the break-up of former Yugoslavia. In this weeks "Correspondent", Frederick Baker joins Lojze on one of his business trips from Austria to Slovenia.
Fred Baker investigates written cultures in Austria and Slovenia

After a bilingual literary reading in Klagenfurt / Celovec, the journey takes in, a visit to Florjan Lipus - the top -Carinthian-Slovene novelist, as well as a local former anti-Slovenian activist. Leaving Austria through the tunnel built with concentration camp labour, Lojze drops in on the Slovenian Culture minster and the young publishers Lojze has inspired.

At the end of this journey to the scenes of his past and future battles in the cause of a multilingual Europe, Lojze takes "Correspondent" to the source of his inspiration, a natural wonder hidden in the special Karst mountains of Slovenia.

Producer/Reporter: Frederick Baker

Series Producer: Lucy Hetherington

Editor: Fiona Murch

Click here for transcripts

Why publishing matters to Lojze Weiser
Why publishing matters to Lojze Weiser
See also:

12 May 00 | Correspondent
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