There are times when certain coincidences determine decisive milestones in a person's life. This was also the case with Bunye Ngene. The 38-year-old grew up in Nigeria – as the youngest of nine children. His parents felt it was important for all the children to pursue studies. Bunye Ngene initially had no idea what he should study. Languages interested him in general, yet none specifically. A brochure containing study subjects included mention of the German Studies Programme at the University of Ibadan. That's when he became attentive.
‘I didn’t even know the sound of the German language, but Germany was familiar to me from football, Mercedes was a vehicle brand that I’d heard of, and I loved the German thrillers that were broadcast in English on TV here in Nigeria’, he says. Bunye Ngene now lives in Munich, has a master’s degree in German as a foreign language and has enjoyed German citizenship for three years. To earn a living, he works freelance as a German teacher for international students, professionals and other newcomers. Albeit his true passion lies elsewhere: writing novels.
Bunye Ngene’s first novel appeared in German in May. He had initially written it in English. The book’s German title is ‘Die Körper, die sich bewegen’. It tells the story of a man who undertakes the long and dangerous journey through the Sahara and across the Mediterranean from Nigeria to Europe. The original English text resulted in Bunye Ngene becoming a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2021 and semifinalist in the BookLife Prize 2021.
Similar to many other authors, he initially started writing short stories. ‘I’ve always enjoyed reading and this gave me the idea for writing my own texts’, he says. These are mostly everyday stories that he elaborates in a literary fashion. They deal with migrants in Germany, life between two cultures, and learning German. Germany and German are therefore a significant source of information for his creativity. ‘Almost all my stories deal with Nigeria and Germany. There’s always a link’, he explains. Sometimes he writes in English, but for some time now also in German.
He still had a few difficulties with German vernacular during his first visit to Germany in 2007 after completing his bachelor’s degree in Nigeria. ‘Terms like “krass” really threw me’, he explains. Equipped with a DAAD scholarship, at that time he was participating in a German course at the university in Cologne. The trip offered many surprises: ‘I had no conception of how cold it can be in Germany. On the other hand, I’d also not reckoned with meeting so many friendly people. Three individuals even spoke to me at the airport and offered to help me.’
Back in Nigeria, Bunye Ngene worked for two years in the library of the Goethe-Institut in Lagos and in 2010 he was then awarded another DAAD scholarship to take his master’s degree at LMU Munich. He has since been living in Germany where he also sees his future. He’s not thinking of returning to Nigeria. Bunye Ngene is currently writing his second novel. ‘This time I’m writing it directly in German. I can’t reveal anything more.’