Multilingual Literary Journal Catches on Around Europe

EUROPE'S newest publication is printed in five languages and already reaches readers numbered in the millions. The literary magazine Liber made its debut this month at the Frankfurt International Book Fair.

In addition to Frankfurt, the first issue appeared in London, Rome, Madrid, and Paris in the language of the country.

``It's not a normal paper,'' explains Alan Hollinghurst, one of Liber's deputy editors. The 24-page supplement appears five times a year in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, The Times of London, Rome's L'Indice, Paris's Le Monde, and Madrid's El Pais.

Liber's aim is more than wide readership. An opening editorial states that it will serve as a forum where writers and scholars ``can explain and debate freely ... intellectual problems which are of general concern'' without language barriers.

The timing of Liber appears to be good. In 1986, the 12 members of the European Community agreed to the goal of a borderless economy by 1992. Since then public debate has grown over just what ``Europe'' is and what it means to be ``European.''

A multilingual forum can play an important part in the debates.

According to Mr. Hollinghurst, the idea for Liber predates 1986. A Frenchman, Pierre Bourdieu, and an Italian, Gian Giacomo Migone, thought such a publication might be useful for showing Europeans what unites them.

They were aware that it might reveal what divides them as well. Three years later, with additional partners in Great Britain, West Germany, and Spain, Liber was launched.

The first issue has a cover story by G"unter de Bruyn, an East German, about Heinrich B"oll.

Other writers are French, British, West German, Italian, Romanian, Polish, and Nigerian.

Although the journal is billed as ``a European review of books,'' articles will mainly be essays on literary themes.

``Interest in the magazine has been very good,'' reports Christopher Lorne, advertising director for Britain, referring to advertisers and publishers.

Liber's ads will be the same - with translated copy - in all markets. The publishers hope advertisers will see a unique opportunity to reach a highly literate audience of more than 2 million readers in five countries at once.

The next issue of Liber will be distributed in early December.

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