What tongues are those that
So pollute the mind with idiot tales?
(from ‘Ogun Abibiman’)
(German) Academics are (also) not nice people.
(Noam Chomsky – almost - dixit)
Some time at the beginning of the third millenium a German journalist colleague, who in recent years had also developed an inkling for African Literature kept asking me to, please, transmit his ‘posted-in-bulk’-questionnaire (sic!) for two dozen African writers to Kongi as well. As usual I answer is an outright NO, since ‘I never reply to such questionnaires”, an information which I duly transmit back to the questioner. But rather unwisely I add in my e-mail to Mr. M. L. – now Dr. M. L. - that... see textual quote to Dr. L., an offer which I considered a rather generous one, since I would have to do the job and that even without pay.
But what does our prospectice doctor of philology do? He not only refuses that generous offer, but decides to use my straightforward e-mail reply to him as the foundation stone for his verbose and slanderous Ph.D. thesis, and one starts… wondering about the shocking slide of German academia not only into slander but also into sheer illiteracy!
No: the man, who must have gulped gallons of what we Germans call ‘Moralin’ before committing his most dubious ‘findings’ to print, must have developed a terrible attack of grudge before doing so – just because he got neither the answer to his Questionnaire nor his ‘exclusive’ interview with Kongi – though he was ‘granted’ not only an early morning meeting with the ’man’ but also a luscious and longish breakfast in my Cologne kitchen. Which – were
he really a professional journalist – would have afforded him the opportunity to squeeze dozens of answers out of Wole. But somehow our provincial journalistic primadonna somewhow missed that opportunity…
In a most incongruous German (!) Ph.D. thesis the fellow first wastes not less than six dozen pages on telling his professor (!) what an interview is all about, and then he finally wastes another eight pages on describing the ‘ideal
interview’; and the hack from a German provincial newspaper even has the cheek to establish a ‘Canon of Rules’.
In the main corpus of his Ph. D. thesis the man pretends to compare the ‘reception of African Literatures’ – i.e. the writings of Sembene Ousmane and Wole Soyinka – in the form of the journalistic interview.
In his exercise of verbal academic diarrhea Dr. L. exposes himself
a. as a very bad academic and
b. as a very bad journalist, who does not only NOT do his homework properly but also does not seem to know how to do it! But we shall come to that - less important – point later.
Far more important is the fact that the budding, though not so young Dr. seems to bear a terrible grudge against the object of his study, one W.S. And he seems to believe he is justified in doing so – simply because he did NOT do
his homework – meaning that his sloppy journalistic-cum-academic homework cannot be separated from the slanderous end result.
Let me give just two examples for a start: One of his thematic, introductory quotes to the Ph.D. is the text of an e-mail which Kongi sent me from a meeting of Nobels in Barcelona, Spain, before flying to Heidelberg for a reading. From ‘Climate of Fear’, (The BBC’s Reith Lectures) which had been published in a German version briefly before Kongi’s reading. Wole’s e-mail reads likes this:
”When I come to Heidelberg, maybe (sic!) you can even ”interview” me (...) When I come in, you can get all your interviewing machinery ready (...) Got it. Play it correctly”.
From an e-mail by Wole Soyinka to the moderator, i.e.. me, of his
reading in Heidelberg on October 24th, 2004”
End of quote. The quote is textually correct, but that is about all, since everything else that follows from it is WRONG, NO, maliciously constructed by Dr. L. to serve his one and only purpose which is SLANDER.
For the strange German academic uses that e-mail - generously (or stupidly?) transmitted to him by me - in his newspaper office as yet another proof – in his eyes - of two abominable things:
- how, according to Dr. L., Mr. Soyinka “mis-uses or instrumentalises” (Dr. L’s words repeatedly!) the world press for his political purposes, and
- How willing and self-agrandising first-world-journalists comport themselves as the docile, willing accomplices of Mr. W. S. It is an argument which our hackdoctor uses again and again in his book.
Well, that fellow, repat, simply did NOT do his homework, which he could have done had he simply made a single local phone-call to me. Explanation:
Wole did send me that e-mail right after the conclusion of a meeting of Nobel Laureates in Barcelona, at which the assembled gentlemen had ‘worded’ an outspoken statement against the impending re-election of a certain G.W. BUSH (as the date might have told him - if only the DOCTOR knew to read, may be even the political page of his own newspaper!...)
Naively I had mailed that resolution together with Wole’s above ‘mode-d’emploi’ to the journalist Mr. L., (later Dr. L.) in his provincial newspaper, in the vain (!) hope that he might use his presence there to get the resolution published in the paper...
And that was it! That ‘order’ to me had nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘Lesung’ or ‘reading’ by Wole in Heidelberg, which was all about his just translated ‘Climate of Fear’, although in his Reith Lectures for the BBC Wole
also dealt with George W.’s fundamentalism.
Two ‘entirely different shoes’, as we say in Germany, but the fake-doctor uses that e-mail ‘comme bon lui semble’.
The entire case forced a comparison upon me: just imagine a British hack writer accusing the German writer and Nobel THOMAS MANN of ‘misusing’ the BBC for political purposes - if Thomas Mann had ever dared to ask a BBC reporter to come and interview him on his attack of a certain Adolf Hitler…
And then he makes an even bigger case out of another honest, straightforward e-mail which I sent to him in reply to his pestering request for that answer to his questionnaire - evidently an e-mail which I should never have sent to the man, had I guessed that German academics are capable of such lowly, mean distortions!
After Wole had mailed me his – expected - NO to the questionnaire I had offered the fellow to do a collage of Wole’s statements from a number of interviews with the ‘man’. I even even begged the fellow to “please, show some understanding for the author, being flooded with such boring requests...” (All mails safely stored in my computer.)
Rather stupidly I tended to think that I was doing the man a favour. But instead the hack, entertaining an inflated ego, insisting on his ‘exclusive’, decides to reprint my - admittedly somewhat ‘light’ – pleading mail with him in full in his Ph.D.
But the hack is unforgiving, NO: mean. Rather obsessively he continues beating me, the lowly fellow - German journalist, whom he keeps calling ‘Mr. Soyinka’s German agent’ – which I have NEVER been – I do know those agent ladies in new York and in Zurich, though. Much worse, he goes all out to demean Wole, by accusing him of all sorts of sins, like... using and mis-using first and third-world journalists for his - Soyinka’s – political purposes – as if Wole hadn’t been fighting the Abacha dictatorship back home for years and also been trying to save Ken Sarwo-Wiwo from the gallows...
One could, however, simply write off that entire Ph.D. – not by mentioning the fact, that the man’s brother is a professor in the very university where he earned that un-deserved Ph.D. – but by pointing out that his command of the English language is so desperately poor.
And that – like so many of his colleagues, sorry to say, he simply bases a Ph.D. on only printed interviews, when we all know that African Literature in Germany was promoted neither by the universities nor by the newspapers but rather by, yes, first the independent spirit by the name of Janheinz Jahn!, and then by radio and TV journalists. The reason is quite simple: we radio and TV people had the funds to travel in Africa and meet the writers there. And then from the seventies onward we DID have the funds to invite the writers to Germany, record them there and pay them very royal honoraria. Had this hack only bothered to find out!
No, towards the end of his hack work he simply mentions the fact that Mainz University “seems to be in possession of some Soyinka materials from Mr. Meuer…” To which I must answer: only ‘some’, in fact, very few, since I did donate all other materials to them dozens of recording of Chinua Achebe, Camara Laye, and what have you! - but kept sitting on virtually all the Soyinka material: it is still with me. But it will – with Wole#s ‘blessing’ hopefully now be entirely digitalized for all and every one to use, the first copy to go to Wole’s ESSAY FOUNDATION in Nigeria. And then the archive will be on-line FOR FREE, for everyone to use and browse in, in Africa and elsewhere.
The man simply did NOT do his homework!
I am still working on a line-by-line study of the fellow’s Ph.D. study, which – fortunately - hardly anbody has seen or read ! My own refutation of his slanderous remarks, mis-interpretations and outright mistakes already fills several dozen pages, but I promise the reader that my own ‘study’ will NOT fill some 500-odd pages !