2021 - Spring


Image: Ⓒ Roxane Kokka

Author: Roxane Kokka


My aunt had always been a person of wonders. While growing up, I remember her running up and down the stairs in her huge old house, regardless of her age or the grey color of her hair. Not to mention, she had one of those wide staircases with tall steps, similar to the ones you see in old movies. She ran like that to answer her old greyish-beige whirred rotary dial phone. And she would have this old piano with all the white keys turned yellow that apparently survived a bombing (well, some of the keys actually broke but she never bothered to have them repaired). Nevertheless, that did not stop her from singing, and she had one of the most moving voices I ever heard. Without her needing to be in any sorrowful state of mind (especially around my siblings and me who she loved as if we were her grandchildren), whenever we asked her to sing, I was fascinated by how quickly she changed from laughing, gossiping and telling stories to singing songs with great nostalgia and melancholy, but nevertheless sublime tones in her voice. It was as though each sound that escaped from her lips managed to find a way deep down into your chest and fill you with awe.

As I said before, my aunt used to tell us all kinds of stories. Some were of pure invention, such as the fictional “naughty boy called Peter” who, according to her, was the one always ripping her sheets whenever my sister and I asked her about the holes in the bedsheets she lent us. There was also the story of that time she jumped out of a car window after the driver told her that the breaks were not working. I do not know if that story is true or not, but I would not be surprised if it were, especially after I found out a few years ago that she refused to go to the hospital when she broke her arm. That was a true story, along with the ones about her experiences of World War II and the Greek Civil War. There was, for instance, that time when a shooting took place in the street right outside her parents’ summer home she was staying in alone that summer, which was all on one floor and full of windows. She recalled hiding in the fireplace because it was the only part of the house that remained intact from the bullets shattering the windows, as they simply crossed right in front of it. My aunt also told me that if it were not for Hitler, she would not have been able to finish her education. As she was the eldest girl in the family, her mother did not want her to finish school in order to keep her at home to do all the hard work in the fields and chores around the house (this was, back then, the fate of most eldest daughters in Greek families living on islands or in the countryside). But her father, you see, was a headmaster and teacher, and during the war, when the island was under Italian rule and children were not allowed to go to school or work in the fields, her father, the only one allowed to enter the school, took her with him and gave her private lessons. My aunt also told me that, unlike most women of her time, if it were not for her marriage, she would have never earned her independence. At forty-five she broke free from her tyrannical mother thanks to her husband. At forty-five she was finally allowed to move out of her parents’ house and stop working in the fields like a slave or take care of her healthy parents as if she were a nurse. At forty-five she would never get beaten again by her parents for coming back home past midnight, even at the age of thirty.

My aunt died last year. The funniest thing was that I thought she never would. I knew she was mortal alright, but I always thought that she would die at a hundred and fourteen (like her grandfather) instead of ninety-four. She survived two wars while she was a teenager and young adult. She jumped out of a car running down a mountain out of control. At the age of ninety-two she broke her arm and refused to go to the hospital – my uncle had to drag her there. At ninety-three she was still running up and down the staircase in her husband’s big, old house. At ninety-four she had breast cancer and did not even feel concerned by it and apparently did not even need to – it did not put her life in danger. At ninety-four all of the doctors she saw were impressed with how much energy she had and how well her brain and speech worked for a woman of her age. She was quick and she was sharp. Even at ninety-four. I do not know what exactly killed her. All I know is that it was neither her cancer nor the current pandemic. And I do not want to know. I will always remember her as the strongest woman I have ever known. Invincible.

2021 - Spring

Which English Department Staff Member are You Most Like?

Image: © Lex Rodriguez

Authors: Oscar Jordan & Lex Rodriguez



I think all English students will agree when MUSE says that the English Department wins the “who has the best Unil staff?” competition ;) If you want to know which staff member’s tastes resemble yours the most, take this quiz to find out! If your curiosity still asks for more, fear not, you can always check our two previous quizzes with other fabulous staff members here: part 1 and part 2. Enjoy!

2021 - Spring

The Man Behind the Sheep: an Interview with UNIL’s Shepherd, Bob Martin

Image: © Bob Martin

Authors: Mégane Spicher, Katharina Schwarck


One fine day in April, the university’s shepherd, Bob Martin, generously agreed to meet us in front of his sheepfold to answer our questions and explain all about his sheep. [version française en-dessous]


Image: Deux Nez-Noirs au Géopolis © Katharina Schwarck


Could you say a few words about yourself, who you are, and why you are here?

My name is Bob Martin, I’m the university shepherd, and I’ve been looking after the sheep at the university since about 2013-2014. I’m in my forties, and then before this fabulous job I was a car mechanic. Yes, a radical change of profession, because I was a bit fed up with it, I felt that I had done all I could with that job, and then I wanted to work with animals, especially dogs. That’s where I found this job that does a bit of both.

How long have you been looking after sheep?

I’ve been looking after sheep since I started here. It was all new to me. So since 2011 I’ve been in the sheep business a bit, and then in 2014 I took over the university flock.

Is there a certain breed of sheep, a certain kind of sheep that you have?

Yes, I currently have two breeds of sheep: the Nez-Noirs du Valais and the Roux du Valais. The Roux du Valais were originally endangered and the Nez-Noirs I chose for aesthetics, because I love them and they’re a bit like plushies. I thought it would be nice to have a couple of plushies around the university. 

What do they look like? How do we recognize them?

Well, the Nez-Noirs are quite easy, hence their name: they are all white with black noses and then they have black spots on all their joints. And then the Roux du Valais are red. And the little bonus of these two breeds is that the females and the males have horns.

Oh yes! Because here I see some of them and they all have horns!

Yes, they (“elles”, French feminine form) all have horns.

Ah, they are all females! And I see that you also use dogs. How do you work with them?

I have three dogs at the moment. I have a little bitch who is 5 months old that I have to train to take over for my very old dog [a dog suddenly becomes concerned and barks] who is now 11 years old. And then there’s Will who’s in the middle, who is 7 years old, he turned 7 this weekend by the way. I always work with two dogs and then I always have a ‘spare’ one in case one gets hurt [it’s still barking] or for other situations.

Do the sheep have names? Or numbers? How are they recognised? What do you call them?

Officially they have a number, a BDTA number. They are registered in a Swiss database. And then all the sheep that have papers have a name and all my favourites have a name too. Let’s say that out of the 260 that I have, there are about a hundred that have names, but I don’t know them all by heart.

So are there some sheep that have a personality, that you can recognise, [the little dog barks] with whom you have a more special relationship?

Absolutely, yes! So I do have what we call my favourite. Punky, she’s called. And she’s also the one I take to classes, to schools, for example, because she’s quite calm [the little dog really wants attention and barks again], and that’s what’s so nice. 

Is she the little one? 

Yes, I haven’t taught her to stop barking yet. We’ll make do. He laughs.

Are there any misconceptions about sheep, or anything we don’t know at all? Something we think about sheep that is not true?

I would say the first misconception is that we always say that we are as stupid as a sheep or that we follow like a sheep. And it’s true that we follow like a sheep, because they are animals who live in a herd. But they are far from stupid, I noticed. When you live with them every day, you can see that they all have their own character, and sometimes their own strong ideas. So that’s what I also find nice about sheep.

Very interesting answer! And why are the sheep at UNIL specifically?

Well, there are sheep everywhere, but it’s also a bit of an emblematic model of the university. Back in the day, UNIL’s land was agricultural land and when they designed the first buildings, they decided to keep this system of sheep on the site. I think the sheep have been on the site since before we were born. I’m the third or fourth shepherd at the university. The sheepfold where the sheep are in winter – I bring them in between Christmas, New Year, until the first of April – this sheepfold that’s just behind us has always been there, so it’s really an iconic building of the university. It was built at the same time as the university buildings.

How do you decide where to put your sheep? Is there a schedule? Do you rotate them around the different parts of the campus?

Yes, we have a plot plan of about 45 plots for grazing on the university. Depending on the season, the growth of the grass, the work on the site, the events, and everything else around the university, we try to organise ourselves as best we can to graze these plots. We go on the plots between two and three times a year.

Are the sheep divided into small groups, or do they usually stay in groups of 260?

Now we have two flocks. There’s a small flock for the small plots of eight to ten sheep, and there’s a large flock that’s between thirty and forty sheep for the large plots.

How did your partnership with UNIL start?

I trained as a shepherd at Châteauneuf, and in this training there was the lady who looked after the sheep at the university. That’s how I got into the system and I had the opportunity to take over the flock.

Wonderful, so you are the successor! Do you use sheep as “natural mowers” elsewhere or only at UNIL?

Well, of my 260 sheep, between 30 and 50 graze at UNIL during the season. With the rest of the sheep, I use exactly the same system in Geneva’s communes, or for the army, for the road service, for civil protection, for many other institutions.

Thank you very much!

Image: © Bob Martin



Un beau jour d’avril, le berger de l’université, Bob Martin, a généreusement accepté de nous rencontrer devant sa bergerie pour répondre à nos questions et tout expliquer sur ses moutons.

Image: Un Roux du Valais à l’ombre © Katharina Schwarck


Est-ce que vous pourriez dire quelques mots sur vous, sur qui vous êtes, sur pourquoi vous êtes là ?

Je m’appelle Bob Martin, je suis le berger de l’université, et puis ça fait environ depuis 2013-2014 que je m’occupe des moutons à l’université. J’ai une quarantaine d’années, et puis avant ce fabuleux métier j’étais mécanicien automobile. Oui, changement radical de métier, parce que j’en avais un peu marre, je sentais que j’avais fait le tour de ce métier-là, et puis je voulais travailler à la base avec les animaux, et surtout les chiens. C’est là où j’ai trouvé ce métier qui fait un peu les deux.

Depuis quand vous occupez-vous de moutons ?

Alors j’ai commencé à m’occuper de moutons en même temps que j’ai commencé ici. C’était tout nouveau pour moi. Donc depuis 2011 je suis un peu dans le monde des moutons, et puis depuis 2014 j’ai repris le troupeau de l’université.

Est-ce qu’il y a une certaine race de moutons, une certaine espèce de moutons que vous avez ?

Alors oui, moi j’ai actuellement deux races de moutons: il y a les Nez-Noirs du Valais et les Roux du Valais. Les Roux du Valais étaient à la base en voie de disparition et puis les Nez Noirs, je les ai surtout pris pour l’esthétique, parce que je les adore et c’est un peu des peluches. Je me suis dit que ça ferait bien autour de l’université d’avoir deux trois peluches. 

A quoi est-ce qu’ils ressemblent ? Comment est-ce qu’on les reconnaît ?

Alors les Nez Noirs c’est assez facile, d’où leur nom: ils sont tout blancs avec le nez noir et puis ils ont les taches de toutes les articulations qui sont noires. Et puis les Roux du Valais sont roux. Et le petit plus de ces deux races là, c’est que les femelles et les mâles ont des cornes.

Ah oui ! Parce que là j’en vois quelques-uns qui ont tous des cornes !

Oui, elles ont toutes des cornes.

Ah ce sont toutes des femelles ! Et je vois que vous utilisez aussi des chiens. Comment travaillez-vous ?

Alors là j’ai actuellement trois chiens. J’ai une petite chienne qui a 5 mois que je dois éduquer pour la relève pour ma toute vieille chienne [un chien se sent tout d’un coup concerné et aboie] de maintenant 11 ans. Et puis il y a le juste milieu Will, qui a 7 ans, qui a eu 7 ans ce weekend d’ailleurs. Et puis je travaille toujours avec deux chiens et puis j’en ai toujours un « de réserve » au cas où il y en a un qui est blessé [et il aboie encore] ou pour d’autres situations.

Est-ce que les moutons ont des noms ? Ou des numéros ? Comment est-ce qu’on les reconnaît ? Comment on les appelle ?

Officiellement, ils ont un numéro, un numéro BDTA. Ils sont enregistrés dans une base de données suisse. Et puis après tous les moutons qui ont des papiers ont un nom et puis toutes mes préférées ont un nom aussi. On va dire que sur les 260 que j’ai, il y en a une centaine qui ont des noms, mais je ne le sais pas tous par cœur.

Donc il y a quand même certains moutons qui ont une personnalité, qu’on peut reconnaître, [la petite chienne aboie] avec qui vous avez une relation plus particulière ?

Tout à fait oui ! Alors j’ai toujours ce qu’on appelle ma préférée. Punky, elle s’appelle. Et puis c’est elle aussi que je prends par exemple dans les classes, dans les écoles parce qu’elle est assez calme [la petite chienne a vraiment envie d’attention et aboie encore], et puis c’est ça qui est chouette. 

C’est elle la toute petite ? 

Oui, je ne lui ai pas encore appris à arrêter d’aboyer. On fera avec. Il rit.

Est-ce qu’il y a des idées reçues sur les moutons, ou quelque chose qu’on ne sait pas du tout ? Quelque chose qu’on pense des moutons alors que c’est pas du tout vrai ?

Je dirais la première idée reçue, on dit toujours qu’on est bête comme un mouton ou qu’on suit comme un mouton. Alors qu’on suit comme un mouton, c’est vrai parce que c’est quand même des animaux qui vivent en troupeau. Mais ils sont quand même loin d’être bêtes, j’ai remarqué. Quand on vit tous les jours avec eux, on voit qu’ils ont tous leur caractère, et puis aussi des fois leurs idées bien tranchées. Donc c’est ça que je trouve aussi sympa dans les moutons.

Très intéressant comme réponse! Et pourquoi les moutons sont à l’UNIL spécifiquement?

Alors, il y a des moutons partout mais c’est aussi un peu le modèle emblématique de l’université. A l’époque, le terrain de l’UNIL était des terres agricoles et quand ils ont dessiné les premiers bâtiments, ils ont décidé de garder ce système de moutons sur le site. Je pense que les moutons sont sur le site depuis avant qu’on soit nés. Je suis le troisième ou le quatrième berger de l’université. La bergerie où les moutons sont en hiver – je les rentre entre Noël, nouvel an, jusqu’au premier avril – cette bergerie qui se trouve juste derrière nous a toujours été là, donc c’est vraiment un bâtiment emblématique de l’université. Elle a été construite en même temps que les bâtiments universitaires.

Comment décidez-vous d’où placer vos moutons? Est-ce qu’il y a un planning? On les fait tourner sur les différentes parties du campus?

Oui, on a un plan parcellaire d’environ 45 parcelles pour brouter sur l’université. En fonction de la saison, de la pousse de l’herbe, des travaux sur le site, des manifestations, de tout ce qu’il y a autour de l’université, on essaye de s’organiser au mieux pour pâturer ces parcelles. On passe entre deux à trois fois par année sur les parcelles.

Est-ce que les moutons sont divisés en petits groupes, ou ils restent généralement en groupe de 260?

Maintenant on fait deux troupeaux. Il y a un petit troupeau pour les petites parcelles entre huit et dix têtes, et il y a un grand troupeau qui est entre trente et quarante têtes pour les grandes parcelles.

Comment a commencé votre partenariat avec l’UNIL?

Alors, pour la petite histoire, j’ai fait la formation de berger à Châteauneuf, et dans cette formation il y avait la dame qui s’occupait des moutons à l’université. Par ce biais-là je suis rentré dans ce système et j’ai eu l’opportunité de reprendre le troupeau.

Magnifique, donc vous êtes le successeur! Est-ce que vous utilisez des moutons comme “tondeuses naturelles” autre part aussi ou qu’à l’UNIL?

Alors, de mes 260 moutons, il y en a entre 30 et 50 qui pâturent à l’UNIL à la saison. Avec le reste des moutons, je fais exactement le même système dans des communes genevoises, ou pour l’armée, pour le service des routes, pour la protection civile, pour plein d’autres institutions.

Merci beaucoup!

Image: Un agneau au Géopolis © Katharina Schwarck

2021 - Spring

The Rich Man with the Sunglasses

Image:American Optical Original Pilot Aviator sunglasses‘ © GuySie. Source CC Licence.

Author: Leah Didisheim

This evening, way across the east side in New York, this man was crossing the road. He had a briefcase in one hand and the other hand in his pocket. He wore a long coat and a suit under it, a cashmere suit, with a perfectly adapted hat. He probably bought them together so they could match. He wore black waxed shoes and a scarf nicely put around his neck.

But most strangely, he wore sunglasses. Sunglasses is not a strange thing to wear, I agree. But the thing is that it was winter. A cold evening in winter. Who would wear sunglasses except if they were drunk or if they had something to hide?… I’m pretty sure this man was not drunk. He was not the type of man to be drunk. He was really elegant and we could see with his clothes that he came from the high society. So, what did he have to hide, I ask you?

I had met him two days ago. It was in a meeting. He wanted to buy the business which I worked in. He came and behaved as if he owned the place, except, well, he did not. It pissed me off to be honest. But that’s the thing with rich people. They think that because they have money, therefore own a lot of things, they own everything else too. They think they are better than everybody else. Well, I say let’s put an end to that.

So here I am today, I’ve been following him for the last 5 hours; he cannot be perfect. There must be something going on with him. Nobody, in his rank, has no secret. And the sunglasses are my first lead of the day.

He opens the door of this hotel, the Colomara, and checks if anybody saw him. He cannot see me from where I stand. I wait five seconds. 1…2…3…4…5… I’m going in. The elevator at the far-right corner closes. I can just have a glimpse at a scarf and a hat. I hurry along the stairs. I can’t know which floor he’s headed to… so I must be quicker and see which floor the elevator opens at.

I’m not used to running like this. I’m at the fifth floor and I hear the sound of the elevator opening. I hurry behind the first wall I find and I wait to hear some footsteps. I don’t understand… nothing happens. And then suddenly I hear a voice.

“Well, well, well, are you done following me now? I have other things to do than to prove you right. I have a wife whom I love very much and three wonderful children. And I cannot help but think that because I have more money than you do, and obviously less time to lose than you do, that you have prejudices against me. Well, let me tell you something, yes, I love being rich but that doesn’t mean you can judge me because you don’t like being poor. And, of course, as nice as I am, even with what you did, as you didn’t deny it, I’m gonna offer you the same deal as I did two days ago: buy your company, and I swear you’ll be able to judge yourself with the amount of money you’re going to make.”

I couldn’t say a single word. I stared at him. My mouth opened. I guess he took that as a yes, nodded, gave me a contract which I quickly signed, and left.

Well, I cannot speak about every rich man in New York, but this one definitely is a very mysterious man!

I was still on the fifth floor when I heard a gunshot on the main floor. Screams followed not long after the first noise. When I managed to bring myself downstairs, nobody was left in the building. When I looked back, before going outside where the street was busier with every more minute I waited, my blood froze: I noticed black sunglasses left behind on the ground.

2021 - Spring

The Sparkle

Author: Martina Nina

I am still waiting. I am still waiting for that sparkle.
This sparkle, they say, is the best thing in the world that can happen to you. It comes to your soul. Why is it taking so long for me? I want to feel this way. I am getting desperate waiting for it. Does it exist for me? I don’t know. I am searching for it. Every day, everywhere.
This is turning a bit ridiculous. Am I so damaged that nobody wants that sparkle with me?
Days and days have gone by. Still nothing. Still ridiculously nothing.
I am giving it a month. If nothing happens, I quit. I will never search a sparkle again. I swear.
One week, nothing. Two weeks nothing. Oh, come on. Three weeks nothing. It’s the last weekend. That’s it. I quit. Definitely quitting.
I am going to that party to have fun, since no sparkle will ever come to me.
I never thought I could have so much fun when I’m not looking for that sparkle in every corner. Why didn’t I quit months before? I have fun, never have this much fun actually.
And there it was, as soon as I forgot it, it came. The sparkle.
The sparkle was standing just in front of me, looking with these beautiful brown sparkling eyes and the most amazing smile I have ever seen. He was wearing a black jacket and dark grey pants; he was tall and skinny, a bit muscular.
The sparkle looked at me, and there it was, love at first sight.
It is so true what they say, love always comes when we least expect it.

2021 - Spring

Burning Out

Author: Gislain Cardinaux

So on my heart grows full of flame,
Of life ; passion to fuel the rage ;
To feed the beast I cannot tame.
Fighting to free it from its cage.

Through the scratches in my chest
Through the darkness and the haze
It lies and crawls, it thinks and rests
With eyes of burning amber gaze.

Its breath only to break silence,
Its mind ready to rise higher,
It’s on the watch for any chance
To burst and turn to bone fire.

So go on and burn, burn, burn…
But don’t burn out, hang on a bit.
Cause I will need you to return
And keep my inner fire lit.

2021 - Spring

These Nuts

Image: “Forest near Vřesina” by Jiri Brozovsky is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Author: Katharina Schwarck


The fine morning was sunny when I woke up,

Discovered the craving of eating a nut.

I tried to remember what tree it was near

The place where I had hidden my nuts last year.


Was it an elm, a birch, or a tree that broke?

I found myself climbing the core of an oak.

After hours of climbing, seeking, and hurry,

I found myself clenching my cheeks in worry.


I touched my cheeks, and felt something round.

Little did I know, I had nuts in my mouth!

2021 - Spring

The Future we deserve

Image: “Jewel Changi (II)” © Wikimedia Commons – Licence

Author: William Flores

The Future we deserve

Towards a post-scarcity, solarpunk, Star Trekkian future

It’s been more than a year since our daily lives have been upset by the pandemic. I remember last spring when reports of nature’s supposed healing were on the news almost daily. For a while, the prospect of a green post-pandemic recovery seemed within reach. However, both the European Union’s “Green Deal” and Joe Biden’s “Build back better” infrastructure plan, the most ambitious recovery plans thus far, remain short of what’s needed to avert a climate catastrophe and fix the grotesque levels of inequality that plague our world. Despite the “New Deal” rhetoric, they’re no match for the transformative social welfare policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

If anything, governments all over the world are failing to rise to this historic moment. The difficulty of getting a federal 15 USD/hour minimum wage across the finish line in the US only shows the lack of political will for any long-lasting change.

However, perhaps we should not expect state institutions to offer salvation from capitalist dystopia. Indeed, it is up to us as people to resist and disrupt the system wherever and whenever possible. Rights, especially social rights have never been granted, they have always been fought for. Resistance can take many forms. Whether it’s through strikes, squatting empty apartments, setting up mutual aid networks, guerrilla gardening, petitioning for improved rights or even disrupting company efficiency by taking extra long bathroom breaks at work.

While a bit of a long shot, the notion of dual power is promising. Applied by the Black Panthers, the idea is to make capitalist and existing state institutions redundant through community organizing. Community permaculture, local housing cooperatives and community-owned clinics for example, offer ways towards at least a partial emancipation from capitalism. However, I believe that we should not abandon institutional politics completely. Indeed, the continuation of many social programs that protect the most vulnerable people of society depends on the kind of people that are in office. Even if institutional politics alone do not offer revolutionary change, it can be used as a tool for harm reduction and as a way to make things easier for communities trying to organize mutual aid, cooperatives, community gardens, renewable energy micro-grids and so on.

By slowly building a network of semi-autonomous socially and ecologically minded communes, we might just lay the foundations of a post-scarcity society based on Murray Bookchin’s municipal social ecology. The liberatory potential of small-scale community-owned and community-managed technologies such as hydroponic systems, solar panels and additive/subtractive manufacturing techniques (3D printers, CNC machines, Wiki-houses) might just allow such communes to slowly but surely break free of capitalism and authoritarian state structures and usher in a world where the needs of all are met unconditionally, where all unnecessary (and often environmentally destructive) work will be abolished. Over time, these communes might start looking like the vegetal cities imagined by Belgian architect Luc Schuiten or certain parts of contemporary Singapore, whose futuristic architecture is based on the concept of biomimicry. Free from wage slavery, people might spend most of their time building relationships with their fellow humans and the Earth, pursuing art and all kinds of skills and hobbies. Just as Star Trek: TNG’sCaptain Jean-Luc Picard said to a time-traveller from present-day Earth: “The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24thcentury. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity”. Now that’s the future we should be aiming for, that’s the future we deserve.

2021 - Spring

A poem

Image: ‘Suburban Streets‘ © Felix the Cat.  Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Author: Arthur Margot

Crossed with us she shouted and boomed and raised

Her voice, throughout the household heard,

Intonations soon dismissed by ears,

Livid, she thought to chase us all

Down the flight of stairs and

Hoping to catch any,

Out the door and

Of her grasp

Did we escape,

Realising nothing could

Usurp the freedom once tasted and

Left unchecked of fleeing from a mother’s hold,

Easily slipped, scampered, dodged, bolted, vanished,

Soon to hear the distant yells echo fainter and fainter.

2021 - Spring

El Diablo

Image: “Abandoned Storehouses” by Diego3336 is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Author: Katharina Schwarck


This piece of writing was born in a Creative Writing Club session, with the prompt “Mixing Worlds and Characters”.


Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, lived a mean little creature, tall like three stacked apples, hair and cheeks the colour of a rotten cherry. No one had been able to defeat the little devil, for it had magic powers. One weakness, though, it had. It sang. It sang about its victories and sang about its plans. One day, as the goblin was strutting in the forest, it chanted


The miller’s daughter she was fair.

Found her crying in a prayer.

“I’ll give you anything”, she’d say,

“If you make to gold my hay”.


The miller’s daughter had married the king, and the goblin had been promised the princess’s first-born, which was expected in a year. This day, the creature was strolling through the grass, but little did it know, the fairies had set a trap. One safe step, a second, a third, and the little foot stumbled over a root. The creature fell and fell down the hill. It rolled and rolled, and cursed, and cursed. Underneath the hill, there was a pond. As it approached the bottom of the hill, it braced itself for the fall into the shallow water. The fall hurt much more. It slowly stretched its sore body and opened its eyes. It lengthened its arms and discovered two iron bars on both sides of its body. It lifted its head. The iron path had no visible end. The little devil turned onto its belly and found what had hurt its body were pieces of wood, which connected the iron bars, and black stones, that filled the gaps between the wood shafts. The creature pushed itself onto its knees. Its mouth tasted dust. There, it heard an ear-splitting noise, more powerful than it had ever heard. Lifting its head, it saw: the noise had come from an unknown being. A gigantic iron monster, that was spitting smoke from its head and which was speeding towards the creature like a flash. The goblin rolled itself over hectically, and saw the long, dark beast thundering by on its magic wheels. The creature scarcely admitted to fear, and it was only when someone lifted it up by its hood that it started screaming. It screamed and fought and bit and struck. It looked up and facing it was a tall man, fully clothed in black, with a black hat, and a black mask. His cape blew gently above the dust, and his right hand held a rapier. He smelled of dust, of sweat, and smoke. The man said calmly: “Entonces, eres tú el diablo”.


We do not know what happened after this, but people say the next day the goblin came to the princess’s door with a gift and promised to never show itself again. 


And sometimes, if you pay attention, you can walk along the forest, and still hear the creature sing


The big man said I did harm

I laughed and spat, he rose his arm

“You must be punished, you are foul”

Struck his blade across my jowl

“Quit your evil, you disgrace”

Struck a Z across my face


For life, I’m marked with shame

Three scars, from his first name


2021 - Spring

Time’s Prickly Thorns

Image: Ⓒ Roxane Kokka


Author: Roxane Kokka


I cry out your name

In the ocean of silence


Never do I stop searching

In the bright sky of dark stars


I reach out my hand in the void of the unknown

Through Time’s prickly thorns that never cease

to creep in the empty spaces between us


in hope to catch yours


Time will take you away from my arms, eyes, ears, and mouth

But Time will fail to erase the memory of your lips and body against mine

2021 - Spring

My guinea pig died last Friday.

Image: © M. S.

Author: M. S.

I cried when I heard the news.
I cried because I loved my guinea pig.
I cried because nothing lasts forever,
               Even having you with me.
I cried because I’m tired,
               Tired of not being enough.
I cried because nothing really matters,
               Even when I’m with you.
I cried because you don’t love me enough,
               Enough to make me feel special.
I cried because I felt sad.
I cried because I cried.

And also, because
               My guinea pig died last Friday.

2021 - Spring


Author: Anonymous

When a fox is trapped
This is a known fact, you know
About foxes, people know this
People know these things about foxes
People think they know many things about foxes
But really nobody knows the important thing about foxes
Nobody knows the really important thing about foxes, which is
The really important thing about foxes is that for them, for all wild things
the squirrels and badgers and teenage girls, the boars and martens and cats
Pain isn’t something they could ever do, not to themselves
Pain is a natural event, pain is like a storm which passes
Or doesn’t pass, a storm which continues on and on
They don’t create pain, they don’t shape it
It shapes them, so when the fox
When the fox is trapped
And it gnaws off
Its own leg
And we
At its
We are doing
but understanding it.


March 2021

2021 - Spring

Where there is screaming there is breathing

Image: © Andres Stadelmann

Author: Andres Stadelmann

You sat at the foot of the hill
The one which softly sloping rose high above the clouds.
And you watched, eyes twinkling as I met your gaze.
That gaze
Wrought of that deep iron which only exists in the mines of memory and experience
Piercingly understanding but softened and smoothened by wisdom.
What a funny thing
How you of all people waited for me there.
I remember as a child how you spoke to me. You knew all my tongues, and I had barely learned yours.
But that sensible experience became
That drive and desire to know more.
It’s always difficult at first. It requires trust, sure, but more importantly the willingness to accept those lofty dizzying sights in order to plunge and go deep and far and above and beyond and to twirl and to tumble and to wake and to sleep and to scream and to scream and to scream and to scream
Perhaps too much.
You always told me, yes we do want to go there. We do want to reach that summit, the clouds, the rain, the cold—it holds no importance.
And that flushing hilly side beckoned yet, light parting and peering ever so slightly.
But why then, what of this urgency? And who am I going with, and how, and when, and
That love which you pronounced on your lips and in your heart, which screamed in your loins and in your eyes.
And suddenly that gaze was not so sunken, not so piercing, not so deep.
And still you looked
The oxygen is always thinner at higher altitudes, your breath catches easier and you need to stop more often
And wait.
Wait for that immense solitude, which, like the clouds, hides that questioning desire and that fear.
Wait for it to come, and when it does don’t hold back.
When it gets cold you can’t hold back
And those precious piercing breaths
The ones who hold sobs
Take them in, let them out
Let them comfort your heart, take them out in the sun
Don’t forget it’s all green, and you’re there at the top
Open your eyes so you’ll know where to stop.
Now again there is music with a promise of song
Still you listen.
Slowly we gather our arms and take steps, which resemble the ones your children made only last year.
Here is dancing, here is singing, and above all
here is crying.
Do it in silence, so I can hear you reappear. I want to go with you I want to have you here.
I want to feel you living
I want to watch you breathe
Please watch me while I stare, while I glare and while I dare.
And looking towards the ocean, of that sky high and wide
The same one that catches the moon when it lays to rest during the day
Sleeping frivolously.
The same sleep of course, which I shared with my mother. I slept knowing only of a love, that love which feeds the same furry hillsides we wish to climb
And kicking to satisfy those itchy jitters
Yes mother, there is still much to learn.
You know that first time when I chanced a glance, when I thought that maybe a part of that blinding light was kept for me, it didn’t look right.
There was something that I knew I could have followed, with my eyes closed. Never stopping, only stumbling.
And now, with you, at the foot of that hill, I did stop
Not to see, nor to hear
But to breathe
While the world all around me keeps screaming

2021 - Spring

Anthropole Conspiracy Theories

Image: Construction de l’Anthropole, mai 1986. (Henri Germond © BUD), source.

In an effort to bring our dear campus closer to students, MUSE went on a quest to gather all the craziest, weirdest conspiracy theories about our beloved building, the Anthropole. Why was it built this way? Is it haunted?

We sent out a form to compile the rumours or made up stories about the Anthropole, and the replies did not let us down. Thank you to everyone who participated. Here you go ?

Rumours and fiction about the Anthropole

It was built this way to prevent students’ revolts.

The side stairs were used to play hide and seek.

The architect had a stroke while drawing the plans of the building.

I do wonder the number of people who had sex in the building…

I LOVE to think that at night there’s a ghost, the ghost of the faculty of Arts roaming in the floors (just like Helena Serdaigle), she likes to wander outside with the sheep as well. That’s why everybody likes the sheep. Also, she doesn’t like the students coming from EPFL, they don’t feel at ease in Anthropole and avoid coming :-)

It was built this way so people meet other people in a “random” way.

Breaking News: People were secretely scared of Anthropole, that is why They created Covid so students were allowed to have online classes which relieved so many.

The statues are actually people who worked on building Anthropole and who fell into fresh concrete.

This isn’t a rumour but there are showers in the basement and people totally have sex there.

The stairs move and change their pathways from years to years, just like in Hogwarts…

The architect had a stroke while drawing the plans of the building.

I’ve heard that the Anthropole was built like a labyrinth to avoid big crowds. There isn’t enough space to gather lots of people at the same place and theoretically you shouldn’t be able to make a revolution, lol. And there’s a bloody experimental lab in the basement, the place is scary and who knows what they’re doing down there.

You cannot go there between 1 and 1.30 am, I mean around the building. It’s just a rumour, I don’t know why…

The stairs were built that way so people would meet there and socialise… They must have forgotten about silently taking the lift.

It’s actually pretty much confirmed, so not technically a rumour but a fact. I heard that the way the Anthropole was built was to avoid student riots. For example the many different entrances means that one can’t block one entrance and keep people from going in, also the fact that the bathrooms are small means that students can’t meet in big groups to secretly plan a riot. When I mentioned this once a friend told me that after 1968, for a while all student buildings where built to avoid student riots. Other rumour (that is more like a rumour this time) : that the ground 0 is infamous for people who want to go have sex in a hidden place (I bet other people will bring that up).

It was intentionally built so people got lost.

We experiment on innocent students in secret labs in the basement floor (the locker rooms are a ploy) and no one ever goes there.

It’s Hogwarts (editor’s note: I wish it was.)

The stairs move and change their pathways from years to years, just like in Hogwarts…

One day, I’ll meet Hermione.


*responses have been edited for clarity and length