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Interview with SZ -colleagues A European perspective…

Maria Aquaro, who teaches Italian

1. What do you miss most about your home country? And what do you like best in Germany?

Oltre alla mia famiglia, mi mancano il calore della gente, che comunque prima si sentiva molto più di adesso, il mar Jonio e tutti i colori, i sapori e i profumi ad esso collegati.
La cosa che apprezzo di più in Germania è l’aria di libertà che si respira nelle grandi città, il rispetto per il diverso.

2. How has your language/identity changed over time?

La lingua della mia infanzia è l’italiano ma sono sempre stata esposta a più lingue, e sono cresciuta con il desiderio di studiarne tante, per cercare di scoprire, capire, conoscere culture diverse dalla mia. Adesso tante lingue fanno parte della mia lingua interiore.

3. What role does ‘bilingualism’ play in your life?

Io e mio marito abbiamo scelto di vivere in Germania perché abbiamo sempre ritenuto che fosse importante per i nostri figli crescere quantomeno bilingui. Per essere veri cittadini europei è necessario conoscere più lingue europee.

4. What would you recommend someone from your country coming to Germany?

È importante essere consapevoli del fatto che la cultura di appartenenza non è quella “giusta” in assoluto. Per un approccio positivo è necessario fare tabula rasa di tutti i pregiudizi.

5. What was your reaction to Brexit?

Da ragazza ho passato tante estati in Inghilterra a studiare inglese con tanti ragazzi da ogni paese d’Europa. In tutta sincerità sento di essere “diventata europea” proprio in Inghilterra. Ed è per questo che la Brexit è motivo per me di enorme tristezza.

Fredrik Ahnsjoe, who teaches German, and who has also taught Swedish

1.What do you miss most about your home country? And what do you like best in Germany?

Det jag faktiskt saknar mest är somrarna, naturen, kusterna och känslan som infinner sig omedelbart efter att ha passerat gränsen.

2. How has your language/identity changed over time?

Mina föräldrar kom till Tyskland 1973, då var jag två år gammal. Hemma pratades det alltid svenska. Om man sedan bara kommer till Sverige en gång om året några veckor under sommarlovet avbryts språkets naturliga utveckling. Släktingar påpekar då från tid till tid att det låter en aning gammalmodigt när jag pratar…


3. What role does ‘bilingualism’ play in your life?

Att vara tvåspråkig gav mig chansen att få jobba på universitetet här i Augsburg som lektor i svenska – nog det bästa som kan hända en språkmänniska som älskar sitt modersmål men har studerat germanistik i Tyskland. Nu är det Tyska som främmande språk som gäller – inte illa det heller!

4. What would you recommend someone from your country coming to Germany?

Att diskutera är bra, men här lär du dig att ta beslut!

5. What was your reaction to Brexit?

Hur kunde ni?!?

Luis Martín, who teaches Spanish

1. What do you miss most about your home country? And what do you like best in Germany?

Lo que más echo de menos es el mar y el contacto con los míos, mis amigos, el ambiente por las calles, la comida…

De Alemania me gustan los bosques, los veranos en los lagos; también la sensación de que las cosas funcionan…

2. How has your language/identity changed over time?

Sin duda alguna se produce una simbiosis entre las dos lenguas y las dos culturas. Entras en una especie de estado esquizofrénico: no eres de ningún sitio y de los dos a la vez. Vives una sensación de extrañeza y desarraigo constantes: para los de allí soy el alemán, y aquí sigo siendo el español. Digamos que tengo una doble identidad; al fin y al cabo soy géminis… (risas)

3. What role does ‘bilingualism’ play in your life?

El bilingüismo es fundamental en mi vida. Desde que vivo en Alemania es el pan de cada día. Con mis hijos lo integramos desde el primer día. Pero no solo aquí experimento el bilingüismo. También en España vivimos con la familia de Barcelona situaciones de bilinguismo y diglosia.

4. What would you recommend someone from your country coming to Germany?

Que debe tener la mente abierta y aceptar que las cosas aquí son algo diferentes. Ya sabes: In Rome do like the Romans (risas de nuevo)

5. What was your reaction to Brexit?

Incomprensión, tristeza, impotencia frente a la estupidez humana. Creo que ha sido una decisión en la que todos vamos a salir perdiendo. También creo que la población británica ha sido manipulada inflando el sentimiento nacionalista. Fue una lástima que los jóvenes no participaran más activamente en le referéndum; porque serán ellos los que sufrirán las consecuencias en el futuro fuera de la UE.

Christophe Lips, who teaches French

1. What do you miss most about your home country? And what do you like best in Germany? 

J’habite à l’étranger depuis si longtemps (quasiment la moitié de ma vie déjà) que j’ai désormais l’habitude de savoir patienter jusqu’au prochain séjour pour pouvoir obtenir ce qui pourrait me manquer. En fin de compte, rien ne me manque plus vraiment, si ce ne sont des petits moments comme lire un journal/un magazine sur la terrasse d’un petit café dans une petite ville française 😉
Ce que je préfère en Allemagne : l’aménagement des infrastructures pour favoriser la mobilité en vélo. Et, au fond, c’est tout un mode de vie (plus écologique, plus lent, moins stressant) qui est favorisé.

2. How has your language/identity changed over time?

J’ai découvert qu’une identité évolue en fonction des expériences, dont les expériences à l’étranger. J’essaie de m’approprier le “meilleur” (c’est subjectif bien évidemment) de chaque culture que je rencontre pour me construire et avancer dans la direction qui me convient le mieux dans la vie. Mon identité est en constante évolution, au rythme des découvertes d’autres cultures et modes de vie, mais aussi au rythme de mes découvertes linguistiques qui m’aident à comprendre profondément comment une culture est influencée (et influence) un langage.

3. What role does ‘bilingualism’ play in your life? 

Je vis dans un environnement trilingue, voire quadrilingue, au quotidien, que ce soit chez moi, ou au travail. C’est un ‘outil’ de travail, de communication, de rencontres et de compréhension de l’Autre et du monde au quotidien.

4. What would you recommend someone from your country coming to Germany?

“Ne traversez pas quand le feu est rouge, sous peine d’essuyer les regards les plus durs!”. Traverser la rue lorsque le feu est rouge en Allemagne (une habitude très répandue en France), c’est, j’ai l’impression, comme si je bousculais l’ordre établi, comme si je ne respectais pas tout un système construit autour du respect des règles qui doit éviter le chaos et favoriser les libertés. Un petit geste anodin pour un Français, mais lourd de conséquences en Allemagne.

5. What was your reaction to Brexit?

Etonné d’abord, parce que je ne pensais pas que cela pouvait arriver. Puis, déçu et triste de voir une Europe qui n’arrive pas/plus à se construire. La construction européenne est certes un processus, avec des progrès et des revers, des hauts et des bas, mais lorsqu’un pays décide de quitter l’Union européenne, le revers n’est pas sans conséquences. Je suis un enfant de l’Union européenne, j’en ai profité à travers mes voyages, les projets financés par l’UE, etc., pour rencontrer l’Autre et continuer de construire (jusque ma propre famille) ce projet humaniste inédit et exceptionnel. Aujourd’hui, elle est fragilisée et cela m’inquiète évidemment. C’est d’autant plus inquiétant que les arguments sont basés sur des questions d’identités et de cultures notamment. Puisqu’il n’est pas possible d’agir directement sur cette décision, tirons-en des leçons! La plus importante à mes yeux : c’est de ne pas/plus faire l’erreur de considérer une identité/une culture comme un phénomène fixe et facilement définissable. L’identité et la culture sont mouvantes, évolutives, dynamiques et bien plus complexes que la simple démarche de poser des étiquettes sans fondements ou de tenter de ‘ranger’ les Autres dans des boîtes. Cette démarche est en effet dangereuse car elle est réductrice et nous empêche de comprendre le monde dans sa riche complexité.

picture: pixabay

How about some HORROR tonight?

…and I’m not talking about your exams

With the upcoming summer break and our current topic of ‘Language and Identity’ in mind, I got inspired to read more books. Books that revolve specifically around our main topic in a very varied way, but more on that in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

“The Frighteners – Why we love monsters, ghosts, death & gore“, by Peter Laws, will start my little review series. And while the subtitle already gives away what the book is all about, the cover itself makes its own very direct statement: red gothic skulls, zombie hands and tombstones are thematically arranged around the title. If you’ve read my own article, ‘Torn between two cultures‘, this term, you might have already gathered that the macabre certainly is nothing I would ever back off from. Quite the contrary! I guess this is why a dear friend of mine gifted this book to me a few months back. How right she was in doing so…

I went in completely blind – nope, not even the blurb to what this book wants to tell me – and the more surprised I found myself after the first few pages. I hadn’t heard of Peter Laws before, just like most of you, I will assume, unless you’re an avid reader of “The Fortean Times – The World’s Weirdest News”. If so, you’ll also have probably come across his monthly column about horror movies. I assume that this is what sparked my own interest, and curiosity made me have a look at the blurb after all. This man certainly knows what he’s talking about, right? A quick google search of his other books mentioned tried to shock me with some mysterious and eerie-looking cover art to his novels “Purged” and “Unleashed”. Amazing! Someone that really revels in their fascination for the morbid. What else is there about him? Well, the usual. Apart from the books already mentioned, some podcasts on YouTube, and he’s an ordained reverend. Hold on a second. A man of God writing about the supernatural? I left my pitchfork rest in the closet just a moment longer and see what he really wants to convince me of before I call the Inquisition.

I’m glad I stuck with it. Peter Laws’ narrative style is fantastic. From the start, you’ll feel right there with him on his journey. A journey straight to the land of vampires, but also through time – to explore the development of horror culture – or straight into the depths of the human psyche. He really knows how to keep the reader engaged and how to convey his message, which is researched in great detail, with footnotes for the curious. As a student during exam time, I would usually throw a book with footnotes straight on the pyre with some of the witches Mr. Laws mentions. He introduces it so intuitively, though, that it didn’t bother me in the least. I guess that might be the famous priest rhetoric shining through here.

On the topic of priests: I can already hear all my fellow agnostic and atheist friends’ alarm bells ringing at once. And I’m not going to lie; I expected more preachy-ness after reading Mr. Laws’ biography. But this ‘fear’ is just rooted in more stereotypes that, either through his ingenuity or rhetoric, he manages to subvert completely. Frankly, he’s exactly the kind of person that would make me listen to a sermon once in a while again. That’s not to say that he doesn’t bring up his professional career here or there. But could you blame him as a man of God that is pondering whether God himself is just slowly getting more and more frustrated with having to protect a reverend all day long from all the “horror demons” trying to pull him to the dark side?

Last but not least, my personal favourite chapter was the one that’s inevitably linked to horror culture – death. Not because of a morbid fascination, but because, as he so rightly mentions in his book, too, it’s a topic that is never brought up in society nowadays. What could shed more insight on this taboo than a casual interview between a reverend and an undertaker? The transitions between these funny bed-time stories and the serious ones of two people talking about our (most likely) last moments on this planet happen so seamlessly, yet professionally. And right before you get lost in between the pages, Mr. Laws makes sure to take you right out of it, metaphorically speaking, by putting you on a chair next to him, and to straight up tell you “that he will understand if you want to put away the book for just a few moments to ponder your own life. He will be waiting right here”. I took one of those many moments in the book to do exactly that: put away the book, but instead of reflecting on my own decisions, I decided to start writing what you see on your screen right now.

If you’re curious about what else Peter Laws brought up in “The Frighteners”, make sure to pick it up and try to escape from everyday life. A journey I promise you won’t regret.

© Copyright by Icon Books Ltd.

The Frighteners – Why we love monsters, ghosts, death and gore

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Icon Books Ltd.
ISBN: 9781785782206
Publication date: 22/03/2018
Price: 12.99 GBP or 11,99 Euro

Review by Tobias Lorenz
Book by Peter Laws
Pictures: Icon Books Ltd.

Spell it out for me!

More history of more languages you’ll never learn…

A fancy word that’s relatively easy to spell? Masochism. I guess you know what it means. And yet, here you are, ready for a second serving of random facts on language history, politics and orthography. You have (presumably) had a look at, maybe even finished, an article entitled “Playwright, conscience … fish?” in eMAG #34. Amazing details about Korean writing and the evolution of Modern Greek have been revealed to you. What’s next, you ask? More irrelevant facts! And prepare for puns, as well.

Hanoi’ing spelling habits? Thank the French.

Remember how Koreans had to use Chinese characters before they developed their own alphabet? How, just to write down the most basic things, they were forced to learn the writing system of a completely unrelated language (I know they’re geographically close, but no relation between Korean and the Chinese languages has been proven so far)? Vietnamese speakers, whose language is equally unrelated to Chinese, and whose country is equally close to China, had similar problems. Unlike the Koreans, the Vietnamese had some success in adapting Chinese characters to Vietnamese, to a point where they were illegible even for Chinese speakers. This script, Chữ Nôm, was the first real Vietnamese writing system. It was used for administrative purposes at first, but later on, even poetry would be written in Chữ Nôm. But that doesn’t solve the problem that Chinese characters, a very reduced form of writing, can’t illustrate grammatically important changes within a word.

The most modern form of Vietnamese writing came from a complete outsider, the Jesuit monk and missionary Alexandre de Rhodes. De Rhodes, who came from the French-speaking region of Avignon, created an adapted version of the Latin alphabet that could reflect the pronunciation of Vietnamese words better than Chinese characters could. He did take over a few rather inefficient French spelling habits, e.g. <ph> to express the f-sound, so the system still contains some traces of other languages. In general, however, it is a neat writing system that has survived since the 16th century, throughout all kinds of political regimes, occupations and the division of the country. For this reason, despite his colonialist background, the Vietnamese still look somewhat fondly at de Rhodes.

There’s Norway around spelling rules.

Why don’t we have a look at Norwegian next? We’ll see a language whose main writing system, Bokmål (book tongue), is essentially Danish with slight changes. Danish and Norwegian are very closely related and can be intercomprehensible, depending on what dialect speakers use. The language similarities and parallels in writing come in handy today, but they stem from the long Danish domination of Norway. The two states were seen as one country well into the 19th century. For this reason, Bokmål still is the dominant writing system, although Nynorsk (New Norse, ironically the older writing system), fits Norwegian pronunciation patterns better. The further you move west (away from Denmark), the more popular Nynorsk gets.

Both varieties are officially recognised by the Norwegian state, taught in the same schools and used in public to various extents. Members of the administration are expected to reply to mail in the same variety that was used in the request and no province is allowed to use one variety to more than 75% in official areas. Since Danish and Swedish are also allowed in official written correspondence, the system can appear quite chaotic. And we’re not even counting in the more antiquated varieties Riksmål (national language) and Høgnorsk (High Norse). These former writing standards (with  Riksmål being even closer to Danish and  Høgnorsk being even further from it) have thankfully become rare, but there are people and organisations willing to invest a lot of time, just to keep them somewhat alive. Is that a lot to take in? It gets even weirder when you take into account that less than six million people speak Norwegian at all.

In the area of writing, Norway hasn’t distanced itself from Denmark as much as Korea or Vietnam have from China. That’s because Danish rule over Norway ended very late, both languages were related to begin with and the relations between both nations are friendly today. The outcome, however, is kind of problematic: people need to be fluent in both systems and people artificially switch between two idioms just to fulfil a legal quota. However, no one is discriminated against based on how they write, and that’s still a nice thing.

I Afri-can’t spell that!

No list of inefficient writing systems could be complete without the African continent. Most African languages simply weren’t used in writing before European colonisation. When writing systems were created, they were based on European languages, mostly English and French. They also weren’t made up by linguists, but usually by missionaries trying to translate the bible (who would just work with what they were used to). Now, English and French are both kind of inefficient in their writing, since both preserve a spelling that is out of sync with modern pronunciation. Just think of fish = ghoti or the French city of Bordeaux using four letters to express one o-sound. French uses <ou> (two letters) for a simple u-sound, and the more efficient, single letter <u> for the somewhat fancy u-Umlaut (<ü> in German or Turkish) – a sound few languages use at all. English, on the other hand, simply doesn’t have a long e-sound. And of course, these inefficiencies were taken over into new languages by means of their spelling.

Using the Latin alphabet for African languages can only work out when it is a neutral form where the pronunciation of certain letters is not tied to their pronunciation in one specific Western language. On top of that, additional sounds should be expressed through accents or additional characters, rather than ever-longer combination of letters. For this reason, the German Ethnologist Diedrich Westermann developed the Africa Alphabet and presented it (to colonialists, not Africans) in London in 1928. The alphabet has been adjusted to the linguistic situation in (Western) Africa several times and now has close to sixty letters. That may sound like a lot, but since you wouldn’t need all of these in every language, learning the alphabet wouldn’t even be such a big deal.

The real problem is that Africans aren’t using this alphabet to the extent that linguists have been hoping for. That’s because many native African languages are used in more private, oral settings. And when private communication is in written form, e.g. when people are chatting, most African languages aren’t available (e.g. as auto-correct on cellphones or as spell-checks on a PC). The ones that are available, like isiZulu or Somaali, don’t use the Africa Alphabet as a starting point. And even in handwriting, few people are aware of its existence, since most African states don’t do a lot to promote a standardized use of native languages – there are just too many, and most governments have different priorities. Still, the alphabet is around and offers a good starting point to any attempt of standardisation. Although it was established through colonisation, it can be a means of self-empowerment that makes local African languages and cultures more independent, giving them a stable, written foundation.

So yeah, the struggle with spelling is real, for a lot of people. Languages influence each other, and they don’t always copy each other’s most positive aspects. If we all looked at languages neutrally, leaving aside history, customs and patriotism (like former Yugoslvia did, for instance), we could probably create a couple of pretty logical writing systems and solve a huge lot of problems. But how likely is that?

Author and picture: Niklas Schmid

Words, words, mere words or how the English language took over my life (Part 2)

Now that the sappy part of this essay is for the most part over, apologies for my sentimental outpourings, I would like to move on. From the rather unfortunate circumstances that English found me in, to where we are today.

With not much more to do through my formative years than watching Doctor Who, Sherlock and Downtown Abbey while imitating the oh-so-charming accents I heard in these programmes, I would accumulate a rather large vocabulary, as well as a British accent. These days, when people hear me speak, in a classroom setting or elsewhere, they usually assume that my accent stems from a year abroad. And I won’t hide the fact that it does inflate my ego just a little bit every time I get to correct them and say that I am in truth self-taught (I leave out the traumatic abandonment part of the story most of the time; it simply doesn’t have as nice a ring to it, and, in my experience, tends to drag the mood down quite a bit).

The first time I did visit an English-speaking country was after secondary school. It had been my wish to visit London for years, and so finally at the age of fifteen, I travelled there by myself (a decision that my mother was surprisingly on board with). There had always been something about the city that had drawn me to it, and the night I arrived, it took no more than a single sighting of the city lights reflecting in the pitch-black Thames water for me to completely fall in love. I really believe that on that trip I left a piece of my soul in the night sky over London.

Since then I’ve visited the city three more times and still it never fails to take my breath away. So weirdly familiar, like I had always been there, or maybe meant to be there – it’s a sense of home that doesn’t need a domicile to feel real. All this accompanied by the fact that not standing out as a tourist, at least in my mind, and being able to stroll around and pretend to belong there just gives me the greatest feeling of accomplishment.

While in London with my mum last year, she let me handle all the talking (as well as the navigation on the underground, one of my guilty pleasures when in the city. What a joy it is to know which way you’re going.). She was fascinated by me chatting with a member of staff at the Camden Market tube station, mostly, she told me afterwards, because I kept using ‘slang’ or simply colloquial language (I suspect she meant I had developed a bit of a habit of using the greeting ‘hiya’ ever since I had briefly visited Huddersfield the year before). The pride in my mother’s eyes at seeing, or rather hearing, her daughter confidently communicate in a foreign language was not only the greatest reward for my efforts thus far, but also the best motivation to keep pushing myself to be better and to hopefully one day complete the perfection of my English.

Having received a certain certificate from some supposedly smart people better qualified to judge my abilities than me which says, black ink on white paper, that I am already a level C2 when it comes to English, both written and spoken, also boosts my confidence that my goal is really achievable in my life time.  English is a huge part of my life. From writing my first poetry in sixth grade to unironically reading Shakespeare plays today, it has given me more than could ever fit on two pages. It may be words, words, mere words to some, but for me it’s a matter from the heart.

Author and picture: Lea Meerkamp

Words, words, mere words or how the English language took over my life (part 1)

My first contact with English must have occurred somewhere in kindergarden.  As I was only four or five at the time, my memories are admittedly hazy. But I remember a tiny children’s book, colourful and made of cardboard, telling all the toddlers in attendance that some people refer to a Katze as ‘cat’. Not that we cared much – there were sandcastles to build and a whole world to be discovered.

Growing up in a small village in the south of Germany with both my parents native speakers of German, my overall contact with other languages was limited. The only open restaurant in town was owned by a Turkish family, so I learned the word ‘merhaba’ before even being aware of the existence of ‘hello’. So it wasn’t until primary school that I started learning English formally. At that age – I was seven in first grade – I really had priorities other than acquiring a second language. There were letters to learn, trees to climb and, unfortunately, basic maths to wrestle with.

All of this was about to change, however, at secondary. Having developed a deeply-rooted hatred of mathematics and any sort of natural science, I was already drawn to languages and the humanities, but for the time being, my relationship with English still hadn’t moved past the ‘at-least-I-can-do-this-instead-of-division’ stage. But life was about to hit me, and it was about to hit me hard. And, once again, my priorities shifted. Where before there were friends to meet and fun to be had, there was now fear to be felt and a childhood to be lost.

I won’t go into the details about what happened when I was twelve, as my incredibly dramatic, sad story isn’t the subject of this piece after all. The reason I’m bringing up this stage of the journey at all is its significance for my relationship with English. You see, it was at this moment when change became inevitable and I was forced to suddenly grow up and function. When the outside world became chaotic, I, god-like, chose to create a new world, a world inside my head, a world filled with obsessions and hyper focus, just enough to keep me sane. When I turned down invitations until I was simply not invited any more, when I was alone – that’s when it found me. A language that allowed me to express through writing what I could never say out loud, a language that let me run away with the Doctor, a language that would bring me the songs that, after hours of exhausting translation, would bring me the messages I needed to hear to survive. A language that opened up an online community in which I felt a little less alone, where others felt what I was feeling and where I could once again escape it all, at least for a little while.

English found me in my darkest place and carried me through it.

Author and picture: Lea Meerkamp

Summer Games Done Quick

Watch your childhood memories get destroyed

Seeing how our issue this term is nearing its final production steps, there has been a lot of discussion on stereotypes within our team. And what better stereotypes are there than the ones revolving around gaming and gamers? Well, let me destroy the misconception of sweaty and unsocial gamers in the next few minutes as they destroy your favourite games in the meantime!

Gotta go fast!

First of all, you might ask what I’m talking about. The “Games Done Quick“ event takes place twice a year in America and is livestreamed for free on a platform called „twitch.tv“. Gamers from around the world met up this past week in Bloomington, Minnesota, to showcase their skills in some of the most classic video games out there but also a bunch of new releases. I already hear you say “Pff, video games don’t take any skill. It’s just pressing a bunch of buttons.“. I’ll have to pull a Trump on this one and tell you you’re wrong. Remember that time you got stuck on that one dungeon in “The Legend of Zelda“ as a child and you just couldn’t figure out the solution? How about just entering a series of button presses in the exact right amount of time to launch yourself over the entire thing, maneuver skilfully to the desired spot on the map in the dark – because obviously the developers had not intended for you to take that route – and just slay the boss of the level without having any of the tools available you’d have access to if you took the normal way around. This is what’s called a “speedrun“ in the community: the abuse of ingame mechanics to beat a game within a fraction of the time needed, compared to playing normally. Months of preparation go into every single one of these runs that have been featured during this past week. Even more impressing that the players don’t only show off incredible tricks but also entertain the audience at the same time and try to explain what they’re doing. So if you were worried you wouldn’t understand what’s even happening on your screen, fear not!

The good cause: Médecins Sans Frontières

There’s a massive production team behind these events every year. Most of them coming straight from the community themselves. And – to my knowledge – all of them organising this on a voluntary basis, though there are known sponsors and brands to help out. During the stream, the audience can donate money which entirely goes to a good cause. The winter production forwards it to cancer research and the summer production to “Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)“; a non- profitable international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF gives emergency aid to people affected by wars, epidemics, famine, natural disasters and man-made disasters, or areas where there is no health care available. It provides this help to all people, regardless of their race, religion or political beliefs. (definition taken from wikipedia.org). Noteworthy as well that MSF have won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. They act on a set of 5 fundamental medical rules: Impartiality, Independence, Neutrality, Bearing witness, as well as being transparent and accountable. An overall great cause to donate money for, right? Something a few hundred thousand other people have thought, too, and they’ve raised a whooping $3,003,839. So not only have there been new time records set for some of these memorable games, but also a new record in the charity’s history that started in 2011.


With all that being said, I can only implore you to go check out this great exhibition if you’re interested in video games. There’s over 100 games being showcased so there should be something available for all tastes and ages. The livestream itself has ended yesterday, but all the runs have been recorded and uploaded to the „Awesome Games Done Quick“ YouTube channel. For legal reasons, I can’t link you directly. Go check it out and enjoy! Same goes for Doctors without Borders. Their homepage is incredibly informative. Go check that out, too!

Author: Tobias Lorenz

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor anyone on the eMAG team is involved in “Awesome Games Done Quick“. This is the author’s own opinion and he has not been paid to promote the event.

”Let it go.“

Welcome back. We know you’ve swallowed the entire first part of this interview within a few minutes. Go get a drink and do some intellectual push-ups for warming up. There’s more to come.

Katharina: “You are not only a famous philosopher, but also a famous author. How do you connect philosophy and business?”

Achille: “You see, I wish the business part was mine, but unfortunately it’s not. The business part is for the publishing companies. No, I’m joking. Frankly, I don’t know how a book comes to be read by many people. What matters, as far as I am concerned, is that you choose to do something and you do it the best you can. You find joy in doing it. You don’t regret, once it’s done, that you could have done it this way or another. And when you reach that state with work, with a book, with writing, you let it go.”

“You let it go because you have equipped it with the resources for it to travel by itself. The moment you release it, there’s nothing you can do. It travels its own way, it speaks to people or not, it will sell or not. These are decisions that are beyond your control. What I am interested in, the moment I release my work, I ‘set it free’, is knowing full well I have done the best I could. And your satisfaction comes from the knowledge and the conviction that you have done the best. That is what matters to me. Questions of reputation or money are not really the way I conceive of all of this.”

Niklas: “You get paid in self-respect?”

Achille: “Exactly. Your payment is the level of self-respect you think you have gathered through your work, your dedication and the joy produced in the act of writing. I think, if you do not find joy in what you’re doing, you shouldn’t do it, you should abandon it. So in that sense, I think you have to find joy in what you do, not caring about others. And you have to allow people to take your work in directions you didn’t expect. That’s how it speaks to them. If it doesn’t speak to them, it just means it’s not a successful piece of work. The process, on the other hand, is about joy and freedom, if you ask me. In whatever one does, how does one achieve or experience these two affects?”

Katharina: “Do you think your books are received differently in the West than in Africa?”

Achille: “Yes. And in fact, they are received differently in different places within the West. For instance, the book called Critique of Black Reason was received very positively in Germany and in a lukewarm manner in the Netherlands. They didn’t like it. There are always different reactions. For example, On the Postcolony, a book I published in 2010, was basically ignored in France, even though I wrote in French. And then it had a magnificent reception in the US. And only after that, the French public began to care. But the book has never really made the kind of impact it had in the Anglophone in France or the francophone world. I think, in the case of France and On the Postcolony, people in France didn’t know what to do with it.”

“This was partly because, in the academic world in France, people are still extremely stuck within specific disciplines. If you are a historian, you act and write like a historian. If you are a sociologist, you are only that. There is not much interest in interdisciplinary research. And the book was very interdisciplinary. So they did not know how to classify it. And I also think the style of writing was not academic enough in their opinion, nor was it considered to be just public writing. It was a hybrid form and the French did not know what to make of it. But in America, then, it received respect from many different directions.”

Niklas: “What authors do you read? And I am not talking about research papers, but books you read for entertainment.”

Achille: “I read novels, mainly. Lots of novels. French contemporary novels, African novels, Chinese and Japanese novels. A lot from Latin America, but not that much from the US or England. The choice is huge already, but I think I should probably still expand it…”

“I also listen to lots of music, all kind of musical forms. I watch too much soccer, I’m almost an addict. I also cook, which is very good for meditation. Cooking is a fantastic exercise. Or running on the grass. I don’t go to the gym, I go running and playing soccer, on the open air.”

Katharina: “I’m sure you know Chimamanda Adichie. She talks about the concept of the single story, and how, growing up in Africa, she used to read Western literature and how it influenced people in negative ways, how it made people write novels that were Westernized, rather than Africanized.”

Achille: “I have a feeling that this might not be entirely true for all of us – an African writer writing in French would not say it. This might be a very anglophone problem. Writers such as Alain Mabanckou or Kossi Efoui wouldn’t say it, because they would not have the same idea on what being ‘African’ is all about. They would not see a clear-cut opposition between African things and Western things, not in the same way as Chimamanda does.”

“In their writing, there is much more fluidity between different spaces, much more playfulness with, for instance, the French language, much more mixing of forms, much more – to use the title of your magazine – respect for ‘misfits’. And this is what makes their styles extremely fluorescent, extremely luxurious, extremely playful, too. What is really interesting in this kind of work is the degree to which they are willing to combine things we do not usually combine.”

Niklas: “Talking about things that aren’t usually combined, you come from a country that people like to refer to as a ‘third-world’ or ‘developing’ country. We are from Germany. Few people would name our countries in the same sentence, one directly after the other. So how do you think, generally speaking, cooperation of richer and poorer countries could be improved, for mutual benefit?”

Achille: “I think there is a difference between a ‘cooperation’, that is based on ignorance and real cooperation that is based on the knowledge of each other. People who do not know each other can hardly cooperate creatively or fruitfully. And it seems to me that the big obstacle to cooperation between developed and so-called undeveloped countries is wilful ignorance. So in order to improve cooperation between these two entities, there is an absolute necessity to get to know each other better.”

“Nowadays, we have the means to know each other, to know Africa, its diverse and complex history; we do have the means to know. The question is, why do we still need to invest in prejudice, why this infatuation with ignorance and prejudice, when we do have the means to know. I think that is the question we have to ask.”

“I think, this investment in ignorance is so big because ignorance allows you to be irresponsible and still act in good conscience, even if the results are catastrophic. It seems to me that the West is invested wilfully in massive ignorance in regards to the rest of the world. Because only wilful ignorance allows the West to act irresponsibly. So if we want to change the system, we have to know a bit more. And that is possible – the knowledge is there and it is accessible. There is no reason why anyone, anywhere in the world, should be ignorant about others. Just do the work.”

Katharina: “When we talk about postcolonialism, we often mention how language divides people, how the way we speak about Africa, for instance, is completely different from the way we speak about Western countries. I’m going to be a teacher – how will I teach my students not to be ignorant, not to divide the world through language?”

Achille: “You see the material is there. One of the beauties of the new technologies is that they have helped the world to build new libraries, metaphorically speaking. And these libraries are mobile, they are portable, they are accessible. The Internet allows us access to a multiplicity of documents, of data, of facts, that, if used, would probably unleash the making of entirely new forms of knowledge – images, videos, sounds, documentaries, photographs…”

“So the material is there. The key is to organize it and use it in a pedagogical manner, so that it responds better to the expectations of our times. The material exists, but our thresholds have increased because of the high exposure to technology. So we need to pull people out of their own ignorance and unlock their sense of critical reading of these materials.”

Niklas: “We would like to thank you for the interview.”

Achille: “It was my pleasure.”

(This text has been edited for clarity and length)

Authors:

Katharina Tancré, Niklas Schmidt

Pictures: Fotostelle Universität Augsburg