Guillaume Malingri de Bagnolo: Be Proud to Be a Minority

29/04/2013 18:44

There is a special time in everyone’s life when one encounters people who leave footprints on one’s mind. As a result, we are never the same again. The role of these rare and extraordinary people is to bring out the best in us. I must admit that there is one person I have been very lucky to meet, who reminded me why it is all worth. Guillaume Malingri de Bagnolo, one of the speakers at the International Student Conference on Inter-American Studies held in February 2013 at the Faculty of Arts, taught me to act not because I expect recognition for my efforts, but purely out of the very need to do so. Because you don't have to conform to be accepted; the greatest value comes from loving yourself for who you are.


By courtesy of Guillaume Malingri de Bagnolo


Perspectives (P): Guillaume, it is great having you here in Bratislava. How are you and what are your impressions so far?

Guillaume (G): I feel great, thank you. This is the first time ever I am here and I must admit that I have fallen head over heels in love with Bratislava. I am overwhelmed because everyone is smiling and people are really friendly. I am sorry that I am staying just for the conference though. Due to my presentation I will not have as much time to explore the city as I would prefer.


P: Can you please tell us more about your research? What and where are you studying?

G: I am currently working on my Master’s degree in International Relations at the University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas and the History Department of the University of Paris IV Sorbonne. It sounds complicated but in fact it is not – there is a partnership between these two universities and it enables me to be in this programme. Prior to these studies I completed a three-year preparatory course and was accepted to the Ecole Normale Supérieure to study English. Then I studied at New York University‘s Tisch School of the Arts for one-year. However, the choices I made were not necessarily what I wanted. They were simply good for my training so I made them. But on my return to France I felt I had had enough so I chose to study the Slavic languages (Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian) at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilisations. Ever since, the Balkans has been something I am truly passionate about. I am very sensitive especially as far as the question of identity in both languages I am learning is concerned.


P: Tell us more about your New York stay. How was it?

G: New York was fabulous. This exchange stay was an obligatory part of the four-year English programme. I was thrilled to experience one of the most exciting cities in the world. I discovered the whole energy diversity. It may sound like a cliché, but things there are really different from our European perspective. In New York I felt as if everything were possible. I was excited about everything, especially about parties. I had a favourite place in Manhattan called the Box. I highly recommend it: when you come to New York, you should definitely go. The place was gorgeous and the shows they produced were crazy; once I even saw dancing poodles. New York is definitely one of the most exciting destinations I have ever been to.


P: Your research interests are really diverse. If you could choose just one field, which would it be? What do you envision yourself doing in ten years’ time?

G: There is only one wish I have. In ten years’ time I hope not to become bitter (laughter). If I live that long my dream will be to work as an ambassador. While representing your country and culture abroad you get to travel a lot. Although it involves this moral obligation, you are actually helping your country to bridge these gaps both personally and culturally. The outcome is understanding the world better. I would love to make my small contribution. On the personal side, I don’t know where I’d like to be in ten years’ time. Perhaps in a relationship or even married, now that it is legal in France.


P: I am wondering what makes you get up in the morning when your day is literally filled up with such an enormous amount of activities...

G: I suppose it is the laughing and simply having fun. Just engaging in a conversation, getting to know other people and enjoying their company is that moment of time when you realize that time is love. If you want to express your love, you had better do it now. So, who do you need to start spending more time with? What do you need to cut out of your schedule to make that possible? The best use of life is love, the best expression of love is time, and the best time to love is now. It may seem superficial, but there is actually something deeper in it.


P: Do you have your own “life strategy”? Can you share it with us?

G: Of course. My motto is “do not overwork yourself”. And be good. And if you cannot be good, be careful (laughter).


By courtesy of Guillaume Malingri de Bagnolo


P: Let’s get back to your studies though. Besides English, how many languages do you speak? Tell us more about your roots.

G: Well, both English and French are my first languages. I was born to a British mother and a French-Italian father. They met in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia at an Independence Day Party in 1985. My mother was working there as a medical records officer and my father worked for a catering company. At first, my mother did not really like my father, she found him too American. When she found out he was Italian, she was absolutely delighted and charmed. By the time she realized he is also French, it was already too late. They got married in England in 1988 and later moved to France, where I was born. But let’s get back to the language question. Well, apart from English and French you are supposed to learn two foreign languages at school. I chose German as my first and Italian as my second language. I also took evening courses in Russian and Spanish. And at the Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations I learned Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian. So I have learned more or less 5 foreign languages. I think the language muscle, which is a part of my brain, gets better every time I exercise it. And although I do feel a bit guilty to be a jack of all trades and master of none, the next one I would really love to take up is sign language.


P: Which 3 things could you not live without?

G: I think the most important is definitely a sense of humour. Being able to laugh at yourself and just fool around harmlessly is necessary for me. The other thing is a safe space. I need to feel comfortable and just be myself. And the third thing I cannot imagine my life without is storytelling. I love listening to people and sharing experience. You can feel a whole new world opening up in front of your very eyes as you discover the lifestories of others.


P: On the other hand, which 3 things do you hate?

G: What I cannot stand is vulgarity and grumpiness. To be narrow-minded and short-sighted, not seeing the whole picture is something I do not understand. Life is simply too short for something like that. The impact of your own life, your choices and behaviour are enormous. Do not ever attempt to compare your life to the life of others because you will be disappointed. I am always inspired by people who have managed to face the struggles and overcome them. Do not resign yourself to a given status quo, try to be different – that is what life is all about. I think this is also an enormous advantage that you, Slovak people have and do not realise. By not being a part of the majority culture of the English speaking world you actually have a chance to see things from a different perspective. Instead of being at heart of it, you are in the margins and exactly that enables you to grasp this important edge that is too often overlooked. The whole point of being on the periphery is knowing everything about the lifestyle of the majority, yet belonging to something truly special, which the others are not able to enjoy, whether you‘re a person of colour in a white supremacist society or an LGBT person in a heteronormative society. Value this extra step forward because it defines who you are.


By courtesy of Guillaume Malingri de Bagnolo


Guillaume Malingri de Bagnolo is currently attending a Master‘s programme in International Relations at the University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas, a law and economics university, combined with the History Department of the University of Paris IV Sorbonne. Prior to these studies, he completed a three-year preparatory course for France’s selective postgraduate schools and was accepted at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in English. He was therefore able to complete a one-year non-degree exchange programme at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in Cinema Studies. On his return to France he studied Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian at the INALCO (National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilisations). In February 2013 he delivered a lecture "Power in international relations between 1815 and 1914: the French perception of the United States before 1914 " at the Student Conference on Inter-American Studies organised by the students of the Faculty of Arts at the Comenius University in Bratislava.


Martina Bednáriková