Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Not Quite Leipzig: 'Another Language' goes to Germany

NZ authors Allan Duff, Jenny Pattrick, Damien Wilkins and Kyle Mewburn get their foosball on at the Leipzig Book Fair
(via NZ at Frankfurt’s Facebook page)
 Last week, while better known NZ writers than I were playing foosball in Leipzig, I had my own brush with Germany.

How it came about

An English class in Germany has been studying short stories.

Their teacher stumbled across a video of me being interviewed at the 2011 Sydney Writers Festival on YouTube.

She tracked down my email address and asked if it was okay if I was the subject of a 100 minute examination that her students would sit.

I said, okay.

I’ve now received a copy of the test…

The first part was a listening comprehension test based on my interview. There were a mix of multi-choice and fill-in-the-blanksy questions:

For example:

Complete the text: (5)

According to Cliff, there are _________________________ through there, each of the stories is sort of ________________ to the ____________________ one and sort of forms a bit of _____________. [...] There is a little bit of ________________________, a little bit of ________________. It’s a little bit of a _______________________________.

(Makes me sound like Lou Bega but oh well).

Ein weiteres Beispiel:

Fill in the missing words: (3)

“I don’t ___________________ that process at all and I don’t think any of that was _________________ ________________. I learned a lot. […] I wrote my first book when I was an_______________________ and naïve 21-year old, it’s a terrible combination. I was hopefully _______________________ ________________________ from that experience.”
Oh, the things I could have/should have said.

After the test the students told their teacher “the Kiwi accent is damn hard to understand.” It probably didn’t help that I was rambling!

For the second half of the exam students were given my story, ‘Another Language’, to read (they hadn’t seen it before), then had to answer questions about it. Such as: “In which way is Another Language a typical short story? Identify at least 2 typical elements of the genre and explain their function in the text.”*

Hard out, eh?

I didn’t get a trip to Germany, and foosball was not involved, but I still thought this was kinda cool.


*  According to the Erwartungshorizont, which I think means Answer Key (though Google Translate tells me it’s ‘Expecting the Horizon’), some typical features include the limited number of characters, limited background info, limited span of time**, no precise setting, abrupt beginning with no exposition, a climax/crisis/turning point and an ending that is abrupt and open.

** As a limited writer, no wonder I feel at home in short fiction.

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