Meet Our Students: Lars Backe (B2) from Norway7. July 2022

Lars in our school in Berlin

Can you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Lars Backe Madsen, I am a business journalist and author. I mainly write non-fiction, but am currently working on my second novel, which should be published soon.

What topics do you write about as an author and journalist?
I have been an investigative journalist at a Norwegian newspaper comparable to the Financial Times for more than 20 years. In my job, I get to work on large projects that can often last for many months. I write about a variety of topics, but most often it’s about politics, business, and topics related to culture and sports.

My department at the newspaper is called “Documentary” and consists of ten journalists. Although we are only ten journalists, we are the editorial department in Norway that has received the most awards. I myself have won the Norwegian Pulitzer Prize – called the Skup Prize in Norway – twice. The last time I won the prize was in 2021.

I don’t only work with “heavy” documentary articles, but also like to write reports that address current issues and phenomena.

So far, I have published four books. Three of them were books on controversial topics in sports: one on human trafficking and “dirty money” in international football, which was published in 2008 and also received international attention. In 2017, I published a similar book on cross-country skiing and skiing, which was about doping and questionable spending.

In 2016, I published a non-fiction book that was a satire about how political debates are conducted on social media. This book was quite political. In conjunction with that publication, I also created my own “universe” of characters, with my own Facebook page, Twitter page, and to that end, and then a series of articles in my own newspaper.

My first book was published in 2005 and was a book in which I and a good friend and colleague took an old suitcase full of football trading cards from Panini to England to seek out our former heroes. It was a book about longing for the football, music and film of our childhood. The problem with the trip, however, was that when we found our old heroes, we didn’t dare talk to them. They scared us. And we made the experience that maybe nostalgia is not for us anyway.

„ I enjoyed the B2 classes very much. I have learned much more in these weeks than I could have imagined before.

Why are you learning German?
I spent part of my studies in Germany in the nineties and studied law and economics there. However, I forgot a lot of the German I knew back then. I wanted to brush up on my German so that I would be able to write texts in German for work in the future. That’s why I decided to go to Berlin to attend a German course.

How did you like your German course in Berlin?
I learned and repeated more than I expected, and would like to come again if time allows. I enjoyed the B2 classes very much. Eva is an excellent teacher! I have learned much more in these weeks than I could have imagined before.

How did you find learning together with many international and young people?
Learning together in the class was just very nice. My impression was that all classmates were smart and interesting people, and I had few problems communicating with them.

Maybe a little bit at the beginning, because my German was still a bit rusty. But in the end, I had a lot of fun learning with the younger students and getting to know them. Maybe some of them found it odd that one student in the class was older than the teacher and their own parents, but I don’t think – or at least don’t hope – that this was the case.

I generally like being around younger people. I work with a lot of young people and have kids who are teenagers and university students. Sometimes I feel like I learn more from the younger generations than I do from the old folks.

„ I love Berlin!

My experience is that young people are more curious and inquisitive than older people. I find it interesting and instructive to observe and experience the natural naiveté, romanticism and enthusiasm that the young have so much more of than us “old folks.” I also like the spontaneity and ability to laugh at one’s own mistakes, which unfortunately often disappear with age! And we laughed a lot in class.
I also liked that there were only twelve of us. So we all got good teaching and supervision. The fact that everyone came from different countries and had different backgrounds made it even more interesting.

How would you describe Berlin and what is special about this city?
On my last day in Berlin I gave a presentation in front of the class and the first sentence I said was: I love Berlin!

I visited many galleries and museums, especially in Friedrichshain and Charlottenburg. I also went to Kreuzberg fairly often, which has a lot to offer. Most of all, I was in Mitte (note: where the Humboldt- Institut is located) and Prenzlauer Berg. There are some people living in Berlin that I know and that I met. I also got some visits from Norway. But I have also met new people. So there have been plenty of occasions to go to restaurants and bars. Berlin is quite a fantastic city for people who like to go out.

One of the things I like most about Berlin is the (almost) complete lack of an overloaded and stressful financial center. In my daily work as a journalist in a business daily, I often meet lawyers, entrepreneurs, investors and that kind of people. But I much prefer to mingle with people who are more artistic and academic in their nature and way of life. And in that respect, Berlin is the best city I know.

My favorite restaurant in Berlin, by the way, is Paris Bar. I’ve been there several times. And  Schwarzes Café right next door is also a nice place. But I also like the cheaper and more “youthful” pizzerias and bars in Friedrichshain, and I also really liked the Baffels Café right next to the school.

Thank you for the interview and hope to see you soon in Berlin!