I love soccer, and I‘m a lesbian (some people might say that goes hand in hand, but that’s complete nonsense). Already two things I have in common with today‘s portrait. Given the fact that I didn‘t know much about this woman until a few days ago (ashes on my head, as the Germans say, shame on me), this is a pretty good start. Or not, be cause at least 5-10% of the world’s population is lesbian, and about half of the world really loves soccer.
I digress. Willingly, I don‘t know how to start. The last three days have given me a little insight in who this marvelous human being is, and I‘ve only scratched the surface. But I wouldn’t know how to write this blog after only three days. That’s why I asked Maddie, who put Carolin Emcke on the list of the first 52, to give me her take on this portrait.
Alice: When or how did you discover Carolin Emcke or her work?
Maddie: I don‘t really remember how I discovered Carolin Emcke, but I think it was in 2015 at the time when the big numbers of refugees came to Germany and the Pegida movement started to counteract the openness. That‘s when I bought a book she‘d written, called Against Hatred. The German „Die Zeit“ magazine recommended it. I started reading it, and this is a book I always take from the shelf when I am very angry or when I’ve got this feeling I would say I hate something. I also had the opportunity to see her live in a book reading from her book Yes Means Yes And, where she writes about the #MeToo debate amongst other things. What’s so great about her books is that they encourage the reader to reflect on things. It’s her way to write, with a certain degree of humor, where she manages to convey drastic and critical situations with a detached humorous undertone that I find very fascinating, and in the next second I’m just sitting here, forgetting to breathe, because she manages to portray these extreme situations so well.
Alice: Is there a book or a journalistic coverage that you would recommend?
Maddie: I have to admit I haven’t read any articles or coverages of her, although she’s worked with very interesting photographers. I need to read more, because she is such a fascinating person. I’ve sent you a link to this podcast episode with her, which I love listening to again and again, because she has this deliberateness and considerate way to make a point. I admire her for that. She listens, she addresses the questions people ask her, and she can understand a question that isn’t even asked properly. She has no problem telling her conversation partner to reformulate a question, if it isn’t really understandable or answerable. She’s quite a brainiac.
Alice: What is it that you find so inspiring about Carolin Emcke? Beside her being a fascinating, amazingly intelligent brainiac? An assessment I share, by the way, even only after listening to the podcast you sent me.
Maddie: People like Carolin Emcke show me that there's still something like sense and sensibility out there in the world. I don’t know if I can say that. I admire the way she reveals things. And I can’t wait for her next book.
Carolin Emcke is an impressive woman. A woman to whom hearing the sound of the jungle for the first time was more formative than receiving the peace prize of the German book trade, which is maybe the most important official recognition one could get in Germany. A woman who talks about everything you want her to talk about with tremendous empathy and consideration. There’s a lot I can learn from her and I can’t wait to see how it will change me.