LCS student Iona Charter wins Austrian writeAUT literature prize

German news

Congratulations to Iona, whose winning text Werte Entwindet was chosen as the best literary piece in the UK and Ireland! Read Iona's report and her poem about the refugee crisis here.

WriteAUT 2018

How Werte Entwindet became Werte Erlangt

Iona Charter

It has been an honour to be a part of this year’s WriteAUT competition. I can truly say that I have enjoyed engaging in this creative opportunity and participating in the larger community around German and Austrian Studies. To be awarded for my participation was, well, just a brilliant bonus!

Here are a few words about how I met the challenge and experienced the process.

There were a number of things which really invited me to submit some work for the WriteAUT competition. Perhaps first and foremost was a wish to challenge myself and my German language skills in a new and creative way. This was especially because my German modules this year tend towards the technical side of the language and the subject, so it was appealing to try and balance this out with something more literary, in this case, creative writing. Additionally, the topics within the theme of the Austrian 2018 year of remembrance which served as foci for the competition were not only interesting but offered the opportunity to engage in memory work. The thoughts, contexts and questions around the events commemorated this year, present wide and diverse ideas to work with, offering the writing process freedom yet also a starting point, which, as many will know, is often the biggest obstacle of creative work. These elements made it inviting and, in a really good way, challenging.

Finding the focus specifically for my piece was a really interesting exploration of the themes. I was looking for something which, while its roots may be historical, remains relevant to the debates of the present day. I was looking for something which aligned with my interests. I was looking for something which connected me to Austria. Most importantly, I was looking for something which moved me and which I could connect to. Although I might be indulging the superstitious side of me, I think the last point really contributed to both my motivation to write Werte Entwindet and then also to its success: it meant it was a focus with a home rather than something randomly plucked and planted.

I have been to Austria once – in September 2015. Some of you may have joined the dots already. September 2015 was a time when the current refugee crisis really met Europe in a more intense way. Being in Austria and Hungary at the time, it also met me in a more intense way. The train station in Budapest had become like an interim refugee camp, and many individuals were taking to travelling the route from there to Austria. This turning point in recent history and the debates that it brings with it, is something which has come up in many areas of my studies: German Politics, Geopolitics and Postcolonial Literature to speak really generally. Engaging with these discussions, it becomes clear how there are structures, abstract structures, which have much more power than individual freedom, liberty and egality: they deny respect for human rights. I am sure that most of you will have met this contradiction in your own lives, whether perhaps through someone you know whose struggled with something like a visa or perhaps through a narrative which has struck you in a particular way.

From this collection of significant subjects, it was easy to see what direction to take my writing in.

Although studying can feel overwhelmingly busy, with pressure from all sides to be productive towards assessments and exams, I welcomed this opportunity which freed me from those pressures yet related to all of the work that I have been looking at. In many ways the removal of the pressure made it much more interesting and engaging: the motivation to write came naturally.

This task was also very different to an assessment in that it really had the chance to become a polished piece as I could get feedback on it before submitting it. It was so lovely to be able to talk about what I was doing with Austria lectorin Judith Eberharter. Being able to take a step back and have a dialogue about it was invaluable, especially as my poem ended up following a tight structure and involved complex themes. Judith’s interest, enthusiasm and hard work contributed considerably to the whole experience: not only with regards to my own work, but also in relation to the whole competition. This was clear to see at the awards ceremony. Indeed, I wished to attend the awards ceremony, not because I ever though I was in with a chance of winning, but really to support Judith and her initiative. My thanks and applause go to her.

The award ceremony was graced with beautiful weather and the warmth could be felt in the ceremony as well. All of the participants were awarded books, CD’s, and DVDs, reflecting the competition’s connection to Austrian culture. I had never thought that my poem ‘read’ well, but actually, despite being in a little bit of shock and not having practiced performing it (I didn’t think this would be necessary), when it was indeed my privilege to do so, it didn’t sound too bad and I could let myself feel proud of my work. My prize also allows me to experience more of Austrian culture though a trip to Vienna, which I am sure will be, just like this process has been, a chance for me to enjoy exercising my German language skills and exploring my interests in an engaging and social way.

If you have read this far, I hope it has become clear that this poem is not only a meeting point of past and present but also a wonderful convergence of the personal, the political and the academic parts of my life, making it a striking example of the interdisciplinary ideals of a Liberal Arts degree. This whole process has really made me keen to look beyond the perimeters of my set studies and I would encourage everyone to consider challenging themselves in a similar way – because, well, why not? Who knows, perhaps a little spark of inspiration together with a little bit of thought and effort, may lead to something much more meaningful and rewarding – in more than one sense of the word!  

Werte Entwindet

Tag in die Nacht und Nacht in den Tag –

Zeit.

Sie hat sich nun groß verändert und nicht bloß verzogen –

Hatte sie ihren Sinn einem anderen geliehen?

Zwölf –

In vierundzwanzig,

In sechsunddreißig,

In achtundvierzig...

Stunden, die vorher einen Rhythmus ehrenvoll weihten –

In einer Heerschar nunmehr schweigend dahinzogen.

Die Sonne, die Sterne und der Mond –

Umherziehen.

Ebenso anmutig wie mutig sie mehrmals gehen –

Heimat, zu Heimat, zu Heimat in rhythmischer Weise.

Zwölf –

Und vierundzwanzig,

Und sechsunddreißig,

Und achtundvierzig...

Unten vom gleichen Osten nach Westen – auf der Reise

Sind unzählige, ausdauernde Seelen zu sehen.

Deren:

Funken Hoffnungen spiegeln nicht die Stärke der himmlische Strahlen,

Sondern:

Immer bleicher hinter vielerlei Schleiern verkleidet stehen.

Da wo das Recht auf Würde sein soll –

Ein Schleier des Unwerts.

Da wo das Recht auf Gleichheit sein soll –

Ein Schleier der Unterdrückung.

Da wo das Recht auf Gesellschaft sein soll –

Ein Schleier der vogelfreien Geltung.

Da wo das Recht auf freie Meinungsäußerung sein soll –

Ein Schleier der Ohnmacht.

Da wo das Recht auf Wohlbefinden sein soll –

Ein Schleier des Leides.

Da wo das Recht auf Familienleben sein soll –

Ein Schleier der Einsamkeit.

Da wo das Recht auf Asylsuche sein soll –

Ein Schleier der Verschollenheit.

Da wo das Recht auf eine Heimat sein soll –

Ein Schleier der Verlorenheit.

Von Stadt nach Dorf;

Strand nach Bahn nach Zelt –

Heimat.

Sie hat sich nun groß verändert und nicht bloß verzogen -

Bis wir uns hier in dem Schatten des Grenzschildes reihen.

Zwölf –

Nach vierundzwanzig,

Nach sechsunddreißig,

Nach achtundvierzig...

Tausende warten um in Europa zu gedeihen –

Begrüßen goldene Sterne sie auf diesem Boden?