One Star Reviews



Dear readers,

Have you ever read a book because it’s a classic or because everyone was telling you about it and you read it and…. you actually…. didn’t like it… at all?

That is exactly how these rather expressive Goodreads users felt after reading various well-known works of literature.

Well, dear readers, can you guess which piece of literature these users read that got them so riled up on the internet? Give it a try!



There are two difficulty levels to this game. You can either

1. read the reviews and guess based on your own knowledge of famous novels and plays
or
2. have a look at a list of titles below the reviews, that might help you narrow things down. But be careful: not every title has a corresponding review!

The reviews:

Work A:

User 1:

This is a disgrace to all pure bloods. My head looked quite dashing on that strange professor’s head.. If only I could have extended my stay. [Protagonist’s name].. This is not over yet.

User 2

So, this is the book everyone loves?


Work B:

User 1:

The most overrated book in the history of literature. The “plot” borders between meaningless and trivial.

I was forced to read the book in 9th grade English class. This was perhaps the most tedious school assignment I’ve received to date. For several pages a lady remarks to a man about what wonderful handwriting he has. Not exactly gripping material. The entire book seemed to be about hormone-driven marriageable-age creatures trying to outwit each other in word and on the dance floor.

The book itself is bad enough, but to complicate matters, women pledge allegiance not only to the book but also to the gazillion-hour movie.

User 2:

Jesus Christ, just have sex.

User 3:

Welcome to almost any 8th grade dance. You will find most of the boys playing basketball in the gym while the girls are waiting in the cafeteria for someone with whom to dance.  I was rooting for [male character] to get away. Maybe he just isn’t that into [female character]?   The scenes bounce from one scene to another so quickly that it makes my head spin, and I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. [A female character] spends most of the novel sitting around complaining about [a male character] and [another male character] while doing absolutely nothing to better her situation. At least Jay Gatsby did something about his love…..


Work C:

User 1:

countenance, endeavour, benevolent, wretch, ardour, anguish, countenance, endeavour, benevolent, countenance, ardour, endeavour, benevolent, wretch, countenance, endeavour, benevolent, countenance, ardour, endeavour, benevolent, wretch, anguish, countenance, endeavour, benevolent, countenance, ardour, endeavour, benevolent, anguish, wretch, countenance, ardour, endeavour, ardour, benevolent, countenance, endeavour, benevolent, wretch, anguish, countenance, ardour, endeavour, benevolent, countenance, ardour, endeavour, anguish, benevolent, wretch, countenance, ardour, endeavour, benevolent 

The End.

User 2:

If you open up any page in this horrendous book, you will have a 100% chance of [the protagonist] whining of what a miserable wretch he and/or the Daemon is, a 50% chance of [the protagonist] being in some kind of a nervous fever or fainting, and a 75% chance of an excessively detailed description of the trees, mountains, oceans, weather, and worst of all….. [the protagonist]’s thoughts. Ahem. By ‘thoughts’, I mean constant complaining and whining. He goes on and on and on about, “oh, what a miserable wretch I am. Death would be pity to me, blah blah, blah…never upon this earth had any suffered as much as I had.” His suffering literally made me laugh.


Work D:

User 1:

My theory as to this book’s unusually polarizing nature: either you identify with [the protagonist] or you don’t.

Those who see themselves (either as they were or, God help them, as they are) in [the protagonist] see a misunderstood warrior-poet, fighting the good fight against a hypocritical and unfeeling world; they see [the author] as a genius because he gets it, and he gets them.

Those of us who don’t relate to [the protagonist] see in him a self-absorbed whiner, and in [the author], a one-trick-pony who lucked into performing his trick at a time when some large fraction of America happened to be in the right collective frame of mind to perceive this boring twaddle as subversive and meaningful.

User 2:

I know there are people who thought this book changed their lives and helped them find their unique way in the world, but coming from a non-white, non-middle class background, as a kid, I really resented having to read about this spoiled, screwed up, white, rich kid who kept getting chance after chance and just kept blowing it because he was so self-absorbed and self-pitying. I felt at the time there was no redeeming value in it for me. I was born on the outside trying my best to get in. I felt no sympathy for him at all. I didn’t even find him funny. It just made me angry. I guess it still does.


Work E:

User 1:

[Title] is not a love story. [The author] was mocking those who think they can fight society and win, as well as the folly of youth. At the same time, he was mocking culture for being so backwards that these young people have to commit suicide just to be together.

[The female protagonist] is 13, [the male protagonist] is closing in on 20. At the beginning of the play, two men of [the male protagonist’s] house are talking about decapitating and raping women of [the female protagonist’s] house. And [the male protagonist] bails on some random girl he’s been having sex with, just to try and sleep with 13-year-old [female protagonist]. Still think it’s a love story?

It was [the author’s] worst play, as far as I am concerned, and the reputation it’s cultivated since its release is ridiculous.

User 2:

This is one of those classics that I do not understand why people like it. Don’t get me wrong – the language is beautiful. This is not a condemnation of [the author’s] writing ability, but rather his ability to plot out a story. The story is stupid. I don’t usually put such hurtful words into a review, but it is stupid! [The male protagonist] spends the first act mooning over another girl and then he sees [the female protagonist] and forgets all about what’s-her-face. They speak all of a handful of lines at each other (doesn’t count as speaking to each other as they spend the entire time talking about how hot the other one is), then get married and kill themselves in a period of a couple days. It is ridiculous and unromantic, yet people hold it up as a paragon of romantic love.


Work F:

User 1:

This book is pointless. Nothing happens in the entire book, the characters just talk, drink, and cheat on each other. I would rather have gotten a root canal than read this book. (It was for class.) Anyway I recommend this book to no one!!!

User 2:

He should have called it “Desperate House-Husbands.” What? This is a classic? Fuck [the author], fuck the roaring 20’s, and FUCK YOU.

User 3:

Halfway through and I don’t even care anymore. I’ll read the synopsis for the rest. If I want to read about shiftless rich people and their drunken machinations, I’ll read the Hollywood Reporter or TMZ.


Work G:

User 1:

Torturous. Just buy the fucking flowers, [protagonist]!

User 2:

This is not so much a review as a declaration of surrender. When I read in the intro that this book is comparable to James Joyce’s Ulysses I already started looking for my white flag. Really I cannot be doing with experimental stream of consciousness prose with no dialogue. I cannot even cope with the absence of quotation marks. I read [the novel] for almost an hour and could not discern any kind of plot. The lady is wandering around London observing “the excitement of elms” (wtf?), trees waving about, grazing cows etc. By the time she starts waxing lyrical about bloody sparrows chirping in Greek words I was ready to do a runner. I did find a bit of dialogue though, it goes:

“‘Oh look,’ she implored him. But what was there to look at? A few sheep. That was all.”

Oookay, I’m off!


Work H:

User 1:

[The sequel] by [the author], was continuing [the first book]. This book was truly confusing. It was just completely random, and I could barely follow along with any of the storyline. Just, I feel like [the author] was on some sort of hallucinogen and thought, “Wow! Those flowers are talking to me! I should write a book with all of the other weird things I’m seeing.” Nothing made sense, and it was just so incoherent, but it tried to be proper, but it wasn’t…. It was just a confusing book. I would recommend just watching the [film] version of [the first book], and sing along to the [redacted] song. That is all the [author] that anyone needs.

User 2:

[Book one]: I found this story completely bizarre. I didn’t really enjoy it and the repeating of words, sentences etc. was rather annoying. Everyone in the story is rude and nothing really makes any sense. Whether it was a dream, who knows?

[Sequel]: Again another bizarre story. This time it’s clear by the end of the story that it is just [the protagonist’s] dream.

I really didn’t enjoy either of these stories and has left me wondering why the stories are so popular? I think I’ll stick to the film version of these.



So, can you guess…?




Here’s a list of titles to help you narrow down the answers, if you want:


  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (1865)
  • Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1748)
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850)
  • Emma by Jane Austen (1816)
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1598)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by Joanne K. Rowling (1997)
  • His Dark Materials: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (1995)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868-9)
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
  • Love’s Cure by John Fletcher (1647)
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)
  • Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock (1818)
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
  • Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1928)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (1597)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884/5)
  • The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  • The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare (1623)
  • The Wizard of Oz by Lyman Frank Baum (1900)
  • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (1948)
  • West Side Story by Irving Shulman (1963)
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)









Answers:


  • Work A: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Work B: Pride and Prejudice
  • Work C: Frankenstein
  • Work D: The Catcher in the Rye
  • Work E: Romeo and Juliet
  • Work F: The Great Gatsby
  • Work G: Mrs Dalloway
  • Work H: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Reviews have been edited for clarity and length. For the original reviews, go on https://www.goodreads.com.

Ask-the-Students: Who’s Ready for the Zombie Apocalypse?

Image: © geralt, Pixabay License, Source.

MUSE asked students to anonymously submit their opinions on which UNIL faculty or department is most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse. Here are the answers we got from them and I can tell you that there are great ones ! Enjoy! (And maybe you should think about it too… Just in case…)

Answers

The med students’ ego alone would help them last a while. They would survive on sheer self-confidence lol

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The students in Cinema, they’ve probably seen all kinds of zombie movies tbh, so they’re definitely prepared. In second place I would put the students in the Faculty of Biology and Medicine, maybe they can come up with some sort of cure? Also, maybe people in Linguistics could find a way to communicate with the zombies! (I think I might be going a bit far) I would also like to add the honorable mentions of who would NOT survive the zombie apocalypse: students in Law and Criminal Justice (do I need to explain?), and students in the History department (I’m not sure how knowing about old coins, texts and buildings is going to help them). However, and this is my conclusion, I think that if students in Arts were stuck in the Anthropole during the apocalypse, you’d just find them chilling in the cafeteria with a coffee :)

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As a new Faculty of Arts student, I don’t know a lot about other faculties, but I do believe the ones with a better chance of survival would be the ones with the building that can be more easily turned into a survivalist bunker. That being said, the Anthropole would be the first to fall, too many entries, too long to create a flanking team, too many windows that can easily break. The winner would then be the Biophore (and therefore what I suppose is the biology faculty). The square building is easy to patrol around, the scaffolding like structure is perfect for high ground defence, not that many entrances AND they have all the equipment (and hopefully knowledge) to study the happenings. They would just need to put their adversities apart and try to organize a perfect equalitarian anarchistic community where each one could use their talents for the best. That’s my bet.

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I would say the Philosophy section, if these guys are not afraid of Kant then what a few zombies could do against them ?
Also, have you ever read Hegel ? Anyone who has the dedication to try for hours to understand his writings must have the patience and resources to find food and shelter through the apocalypse as well as the meaning of life…

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  • Med school students are already quite similar to zombies so they wouldn’t really perceive any difference
  • Biology students would probably attempt some shady experiment on a few captured zombies in an attempt to identify the cause. Plot twist : it doesn’t end well for them.
  • HEC students would be too drunk to fight back and gradually succumb to the plague. Maybe organize regular burials for their fallen comrades during which they would party even harder.
  • Students from the Faculty of Forensic Science would react quickly to the plague and organize a bastion of resistance hand in hand with the students from the faculty of social and political sciences, the students from the department of theology and the ones from Law school. With time, different enemy factions emerge within the bastion based on the students’ self-assigned Hogwarts houses and a civil war breaks out, causing them to retire into separate headquarters from which they lead a war against each other while defending themselves from the tides of zombies harassing them.
  • While engaged in the civil war, known by many as “The Sorry Chasm of the Dorigny Faculties”, the survivors from the Faculty of Theology develop their own cult which is centered around the worshiping of comparative linguistics between languages, the consumption of mate beverages, and insomnia. The other faculties quickly catch up on this new religion.
  • Students from the Letters faculty initially get lost within the maze of Dorigny buildings (rendered even more confusing and twisted by the end of the world raging everywhere). After a while, some of them appear as wise hermits who mysteriously roam within the ruins of the academic campus in a search for existential purpose. Other students refer to them as “bookworms” and look at their frenzied peers with a mix of curiosity, awe, and distrust.
  • It is rumored that Unil had a faculty of geosciences prior to the apocalypse, yet most would ditch this assertion as a mere urban myth.
  • Although leading the resistance against zombies at the onset of the apocalypse, what happened to Unil teachers after the “Reprography incident” is anybody’s guess, really…

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The biathletes. Cardio to run. Skills to shoot.

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Benjamin Pickford. He apparently does a lot of cycling and could ride away quickly into the mountains.

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Boris Vejdovsky. He would start lecturing and hold the zombies enthralled.

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Anyone with a lockable office door… for a while….

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Cinema students, obviously. I mean, most of us are prepared for any type of scenario (+ as most of cinema students have terrible daddy issues with Pedro Pascal, you can be sure that we’ll be ready in case of a ‘Last of Us’ type of apocalypse)

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Lettres, ’cause they would barricade themselves in Anthropole using books… they might as well be useful for something !

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I think the Archaeology students could have a very strong potential! Indeed, their sharp little tools could be used as deadly weapons. In the same way, the habit of some history of art teachers to stick a knife in the heart of their students for not being good enough could turn to their advantage in such a situation. And let’s not forget theatre students who would be able to make great zombie impressions and, thus, be accepted as part of them.

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*Language errors have been edited for clarity

At Night

Author: RK

[Content Warning: Suicide]

At night
When you listen to the moon breathe
When your life is worth throwing into the fire
And your veins are worth being sliced open to see the light of stars
Honour them

Honour those who walk dead, still fighting to live
Those with gold in their eyes
Those who died and were absorbed by the soil
Those who live inside your mind
Those you killed to become who you are

Honour those whose tears never reached the ground
Honour those who fell
Into crying arms of a never opened heart

For everything that is and all that will be
Honour them

Take it all in
the tears, the absurdity
the loyals, the sad ones
the lost enemies
the friends
the brothers
the Love
the eternal

Feel it all
in every bone and breath.
It takes more than life to kill you

Swiss Landscapes, Modernism, Nostalgia, Politics and All That Jazz: MUSE’s Interview with Matthew Scully

Authors: William Flores and Roxane Kokka

Image: © Nell Wasserstrom (Matthew’s wife). Matt enjoying an éclair in Paris.

Roxane: Hello, Matt! Thank you for accepting this interview with our magazine! It’s an honor for us to interview a new staff member and especially someone who seems to be interested in so many different disciplines. It’s quite fascinating!

Matthew: Thank you, the pleasure is all mine!

R: Could you tell us a few words about yourself? Where are you from? Where did you study and how come you ended up here?

M: It was sort of a strange process getting here. I’m from Connecticut in the US, a very small state between Boston and New York, the major landmarks in the area. But I did my bachelor’s in Montreal at McGill, where we had a bilingual university environment. And then I did all my graduate work in Boston; my master’s at Boston College and my PhD at Tufts. With its 200’000 students Boston was a great space for academics and for university life. As for UNIL, I saw a job advert on Twitter of all places! I think it was after a colleague from the Netherlands posted about it. I had a great experience with the interview process and with getting to know the faculty and, since I was offered the position I decided to take it. That was about a year ago. I think I arrived in mid-February last year.

William: Was it tough for you to leave the US?

M: In some sense, yes. I do miss Boston and a lot of my friends and colleagues who are there, although with things like Zoom and social mediait’s easier to stay in touch. But other than that the transition wasn’t too hard. Everyone in the department has been really wonderful and welcoming. So, the shift from teaching in Boston to teaching in Lausanne has been fairly smooth. And my wife, who is also an academic, had already been in France for a year and a half, so I was already familiar with the European academic system. In terms of bureaucratic procedures, however, like health insurance, it took me a few months to truly get into the system, but once I got that settled, it was much easier.

R: So, did you also move with your wife who lived in France?

M: Actually, I was commuting from Boston to Paris about once a month, more or less, and I would also spend a few months over the summer to max out my tourist visa. This is the first time I’m living in Europe for a longer period.

R: And how do you like Lausanne, so far?

M: Well, I didn’t know what to expect at first but I’ve really enjoyed it. Now that I’ve settled and figured out all the bureaucratic procedures, it’s been great! I’ve been exploring Lausanne and taking advantage of all the things to do around, like hiking and the wine country, which has been a highlight! I’ve really liked it so far and, again, the department is truly fantastic and I’ve enjoyed getting to know all of my colleagues! Having people here to talk to and meeting people in Geneva as well, developing all those connections has been nice and helpful. All these friends and colleagues gave me recommendations for things to do and see in Switzerland, so that has kept me quite occupied.

R: Was there anything in particular that stood out to you?

M: When I first arrived, after landing in Zürich and taking the train to Lausanne, that moment when we came out of the tunnel by the Lavaux and I saw the Alps, and the lake, it was all so comically beautiful… Especially because it was such a perfect day and I felt kind of jetlagged and confused! That has really stood out to me. Now I live close to the center and I like to run along the lake and it’s still stunningly picturesque. I love the landscape throughout Switzerland, especially after having been in a place that isn’t quite as stunning.

R: I also love the views here! I like to run in the vineyards while looking at the landscape and then I get all distracted and go “oh, wait, I have to take a picture!”

M: Totally! Do you stay at the lower levels or do you go up?

R: I live further up, so it always goes up and down, but it’s fun!

M: Yeah, I’ve personally stuck to the flat parts…

R: You appear to have a very large range of interests from visual arts, to music and politics, psychoanalysis and, of course, American literature; so, I was wondering, why American literature, specifically? Is there a particular reason?

M: That’s a really good question. I actually came to American literature late during my PhD. In fact, throughout my master’s I was working on British literature and focused on British modernism in particular. But then, for a series of reasons, something about American literature made more sense to me and I also started shifting to the contemporary sphere. I think partly my own reading led me to contemporary American literature, but also some of the questions that come up with American studies and literature that seem open to a very diverse set of texts. It just seemed to fit better with my own theoretical interests.

R: According to UNIL’s website you are currently working on a new book on several different topics. Could you tell our readers a little more about it?

M: Sure! I have just signed my official book contract with Fordham, so the manuscript will be done in June and scheduled to appear next spring. The book is about democracy and democratic anarchy. The motivation for the book was to see how the word “democracy” in the US is now used both on the Left and on the Right, but for completely different purposes. The word has become an empty signifier and can mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean. So, part of the book interrogates this language confusion while also recovering the core principles of democracy, such as equality and freedom. That’s why I make the link between democracy and anarchy, as the latter keeps open questions of equality and freedom where democracy, as it is deployed in the US political discourse, forecloses those ideals. It’s a politically motivated book, but most of the main texts are literary with a few exceptions, such as a visual art piece and a couple of references to film and some political speeches. The goal was to find through these texts a discourse on democracy that resists the status quo of mainstream politics and social organisation. At the same time the book is kind of messy in the sense that democracy is also messy. I bring in several topics and types of literature and theories, and link references from the 19th century to the present, for instance. It’s a big bag of materials and questions.

R: That sounds very interesting! Do you have any other passions or projects aside from your academic ones? We were wondering precisely because you have so many different academic interests.

M: Yes, I think a lot of academics have their scholarly interests blend and bleed into their personal interests. So, for instance, I love going to museums, but at times seeing art ­– or reading even – feels like work. But I also play music.

W: What instrument?

M: The guitar, but I don’t have a band or anything over here.

W: Over here?

M: I used to in the States.

W: What kind of music did you play?

M: Mostly jazz and blues. I was trained as a jazz musician, rather than a classical one. But, my PhD program kind of destroyed the practice routine that I had, so I can’t play as well as I used to. But I still try to keep up with jazz and blues music. That’s my main interest, but I also enjoy running, hiking and swimming. Although, I couldn’t swim in the lake with this temperature…

R: I do understand what you mean by your passions and scholarly interests intersecting. I could be reading a book or be in a museum and suddenly get an idea for a university paper. It’s fun, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to enjoy these passions without that mental load.

M: Absolutely! It’s really hard to read and then not have the urge to grab a pencil…

R: I happen to be very curious about what people wanted to be when they were growing up, so I was wondering, what did you want to be and who were your role models?

M: That’s an interesting question! I can’t tell you much about my early childhood, because I can’t remember early role models or desires, but I definitely went through a phase of wanting to pursue music as a profession, all the way through high school. I had this idea of making a living as a professional musician. But when I started my bachelor’s I decided to major in literature rather than music. It was a last minute change. As for role models, I’m kind of old-fashioned in terms of music, so I modelled my playing on Jimi Hendrix and other artists from the 1960s and 1970s who would combine jazz principles with blues and mainstream rock!

W: Speaking of the 1960s and considering your interest in the relationship between art and politics, what are your thoughts on the rise of nostalgia in music and film?

M: Nostalgia is a very tricky concept… My knee-jerk reaction to this 90s revival I’m currently seeing, which was an era I grew up in, is a bizarre experience. It’s alienating for me to see the 90s in a nostalgic way. It certainly was three decades ago, but to me it feels much closer, so I don’t perceive it as an object of nostalgia. Whereas the 1960s truly represent for me a distant past that I have no personal connection to, so it becomes more of a detached object of interest. But it seems like everything is destined to come back at least once in some form. And I know that nostalgia can have some negative connotations with conservative politics, such as nostalgia for an idealised past that never existed. On the other hand, there’s nostalgia for remaking things of the past, like from the 1960s, to keep alive some of the possibilities that seem to exist in that space… Nostalgia always appears to be operative and it can be pushed towards a conservative pole or a more progressive pole, or even just a neutral one. Perhaps it also draws attention to the idea that nothing really is new. We’re always recycling and reusing things from the past. Going to college in the mid-2000s, I can tell you that the music of the time was clearly inspired by the 1980s; like the big synthesizer was back and bands like Arcade Fire were becoming popular. So, that 1980s sound really came back with a vengeance. It strikes me that there seems to be this recursive structure, especially with objects like media and music. I guess this wasn’t really a sophisticated answer but more a rambling of sorts…

R: We’re here to pick your brain, so any thoughts you say are interesting to us!

M: Thank you!

W: You said that as a society we tend to recycle old ideas and that it’s normal. Does that mean the current nostalgia we see for the 1980s and 1990s is not a symptom that we have run out of ideas as a society?

M: That’s a good question. I think there are two versions of it. On the one hand there’s a more pathological and vulgar form and on the other just a normal kind of recycling. In film it always struck me how repetition is built into the medium. But when I look at Disney Plus, every day there seems to be another Star Wars series, so it seems that repetition has intensified. Now, I haven’t watched these series, so they could be great, but maybe there is a difference between recycling older forms to make something innovative and interesting with them and then a more vulgar and market-driven approach, where we just reuse old stuff because it’s gonna sell.

R: I also feel that the part about recycling just to sell is certainly a thing. I think that familiarity plays a role in it. It seems to me that people often like staying in their comfort zone and therefore seek to watch something they’re already familiar with. But the other kind you described is a phenomenon we see in art history too: there have always been movements that drew inspiration from the past while adding new features.

M: Yes, it’s like the modernist mantra by Ezra Pound; “make it new”. But, of course, he does not suggest throwing away the past. Rather, we should salvage what is useful and reconfigure things. I think it’s an interesting synthetic and dialectical process.

R: Yes, kind of like Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made art. Take what is already there and give it a new meaning.

M: Yes! That is indeed a great example.

W: But speaking of this desire to take something which already exists and make something new, do you think that people in the past, especially in the second half of the 20th century, had more hopeful ideas for the future? Because when we see renderings of how people imagined the future in the past, the future seemed pretty bright. We don’t really see those grand, retrofuturistic visions anymore.

M: That is an interesting point. It makes me think of that often misattributed quote, I think by Fredric Jameson, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world, than it is to imagine the end of capitalism”. There’s something about the post-70s world and especially post-70s America where neoliberal structures became so entrenched and successful that it becomes quite difficult to imagine an alternate form. But perhaps Afrofuturism is an exception, as it tries to imagine alternate future societies and social organisations. In that sense I find that sci-fi and fantasy remain quite alive. I think they work hard on imagining a future that is not as bleak as the one we’re constantly inundated with and that is authentically different from the status quo. I guess it’s more difficult to imagine that today than in the late 20th century, just because of the normalisation of the neoliberal logic.

W: Do you think that the current crises, such as global warming and the COVID pandemic, are signs that capitalist structures are reaching some kind of breaking point?

M: I always like to think so, but capitalism is insidious and it strikes me that every crisis appears to be a means for the economic system to reconfigure and reassert itself. Remembering the 2007-2008 financial crisis in the US, it really seemed like an opportunity to disrupt finance capitalism, but it just ended up reentrenching it. But there is hope, I think. In my teaching experience I’ve noticed that ecological concerns have become more and more important for students in the last years. But crises themselves are not enough to change the system.

W: You’ve previously mentioned anarchism. Do you think there are things that we can learn from anarchist modes of organisation?

M: Yes, I think that the decentralisation of anarchist organization is really appealing, especially in the US, where anarchism has a much longer history than Marxism. Although it kind of moved into the background in the 20th century, it came back with movements such as Occupy Wallstreet and Black Lives Matter. I think avoiding a big central organization is helpful, because they tend to be hierarchical and thus to reproduce inequalities. With mutual aid, anarchism can bring solidarity in interpersonal relations as well as in bigger political movements. It’s not an all-or-nothing situation with anarchist groups. From what I have learned in Boston, they are also quite open to questions and avoid slipping into dogmatic ways of thinking. There’s also a Marxism vs. anarchism dispute, but that’s another topic… But in general, anarchist groups seem to have a more ad hoc approach to organization and resistance, with a willingness to experiment. That kind of inventiveness and improvisation probably leads to more long-lasting change as well.

R: I agree, I believe you need to have the courage to test new things and think outside of the box in order to move forward.

M: Absolutely! I also think that anarchist protests can be quite funny as well which can be useful in some cases.

W: Right, are you familiar with Murray Bookchin’s work?

M: Yes! Although not as much as I should be. I do know about his social ecology theory. But what I can say is that it seems like a lot of what is going on today is the conjunction of fields, which is why I love American Studies so much. Both Black and Queer studies engage with anarchism and ecology. I like these approaches that use notions of social ecology to think about the interaction between human and non-human groups, and therefore address the totality of the problem.

R: I saw that you worked on William Faulkner, among other authors. What do you appreciate the most about his writing?

M: I love his writing, he’s phenomenal! But like every modernist (it seems) he was a terrible person… I would never want to interact with him. But despite that he writes magnificent fiction that supersedes personal and subjective limitations. So, his fiction produces counter-positions to those of the biographical Faulkner. I have always loved his work partly because of how he manipulates space and time. He gives you a view of a particular object or moment while also changing the point of view. Let’s take the beginning of As I Lay Dying. The dying mother is in one room, one of her sons is building her coffin outside, while two of her sons are walking up the path from the barn and you can really map out the space just by following the shifts in view. He reconfigures the realist tradition and reinvents the fictional language in a stunning way. In that sense he is like Virginia Woolf in the British tradition.

R: Yes, that fascinates me too! You would only gradually understand what he’s describing.

M: Yes, and then in some cases he breaks the realism and there’s a character who’s just speaking in a way that does not correspond to them at all and so he just shows you another mode of thinking. I am also reminded of that boy, Vardaman from As I Lay Dying, who has a one sentence chapter, “My mother is a fish”. Out of context it’s completely enigmatic, but in the context of the novel it makes perfect sense. When you follow all of the references to the mother and the fish in the novel you can piece it all together. So, it’s a completely innovative way of building the fictional psychic interiority of a small boy dealing with his mother’s death. It really is an impressive accomplishment in fiction.

R: Alright, so our last couple of questions are very random… Let’s imagine you’re hosting a celebrity dinner party (the invites can be dead or alive)! Which writers, philosophers, artists or political and historical figures would you invite? With whom would you like to talk? And who would you like to see interact with one another?

M: Well, that’s incredibly difficult, but not Faulkner! I would love to have Toni Morrison. I’ve heard her speak a couple of times but I never spoke with her. I think she would be a wonderful person to speak with. It would also be fun to bring Karl Marx, who would probably hate the whole thing! And then someone like Frantz Fanon, whose work I really love. He’s also quite critical of Marx, so that would be an interesting interaction. I’d be tempted to invite people with whom I’d really love to speak with, as well as those really critical figures who had disagreements. It might end up like a terrible dinner party, more like a boxing match… but those would come to my mind!

R: Our editors’ team would love to know who would you put on Mount Rushmore if you had a say in it.

M: Can I give you an annoying response first?

W and R: Of course!

M: I would just get rid of Mount Rushmore entirely. There’s just such a risk to any kind of monumentalisation of one particular figure. That’s really obvious when it’s on the Right. Take all the Confederate statues in the US. Then, when they’re taken down the obvious answer is to replace them with a left-wing figure. My fear is that any kind of monumentalisation ends up encouraging some kind of dogmatic indebtedness to that figure. But if I really had to choose, I’d say Toni Morrison. Also because her works resist monumentalisation. There’s always something in her fiction that completely disturbs the reader. So, she’s kind of an impossible figure to fix in a stable position.

R: Yes, I noticed that Love is one of her most disturbing books, which is pretty ironic. But that’s what’s interesting about her. She is bold enough to go the extra mile and make us uncomfortable and push us to think about what’s wrong with the system.

M: Yes, and this also makes me think of her novel Paradise which she initially wanted to call War but her editor overruled her. “Paradise” and “Love” probably sell better.

R: How confusing! This reminds me of Recitatif, where, just like Faulkner, she’s not straightforward. As readers we’re left guessing which character belonged to which race, all based on stereotypes.

M: Yes, and right now I’m teaching Sula in a third year class and there’s three characters named Dewey, all with different ethnic identities, but the matriarchal figure just refers to them as “that Dewey”. So, I think Morrison is playing with our own obsession to impose a certain identity on characters and people. She does that in a kind of comic way.

R: Well, that would be all from our part. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

M: I would just like to emphasize how important it is that we, as readers, or students even, remain willing to be surprised and made to feel uncomfortable, precisely to ask us to question our own ethical and moral positions. We might call it productive self-alienation! Well…Thank you very much for these extremely interesting questions!

W and R: Thank you for answering them and taking the time!

Image: © Nell Wasserstrom. Picture of Matt during the couple’s visit of a village in the Lubéron (France).

To my Sunshine

Image: © Angeli Laura De, Rain drops on my window, CreativeCommons License, Source.

Author: Asteria

Life is such a complex concept. Sometimes, we feel powerless and terrified when life presents us with bad news. It feels like the ground is crumbling, and we might get lost in the void. Or sometimes life amazes us with the surprises it has for us. I never was able to pinpoint a meaning or a definition to what life is. Certainly, life is the biological definition of existence, yet it feels like it is simplified and stripped of all the depth it has.

Some would say life has its ups and downs or that everything has a reason. Some might even say there is beauty in the bad. Yet when inconveniences and pain become your normality, it is difficult to understand how some can keep a positive outlook. Especially when it feels like you are walking a solitary path. One which is surrounded by people, yet it feels as if they are just apparitions, part of the mist that envelops you as you amble through the darkness in search of the light.

It is a tiresome travel, one that leaves you wondering if you are walking towards the opposite end. As if you’re straying away from the salvation you’re yearning for.

I was so focused on searching for that ray of sunlight that would indicate to me that it would all be alright, that I am not doomed. I was so engrossed in searching the skies for that sign I was so desperately craving for, I was so trapped by my own mind that I could not realise that I might have been searching for the wrong light source, that I was viewing things from the wrong perspective.

You would appear one day, like a cat jumping out of a thorny bush. Your eyes shone brightly when you greeted me. I was so lost in my trail of thoughts, wondering if you are but another spectre shadowing me like the people that surround me, that I did not notice the innocence and love that radiated from you. Maybe you were life personified?

I was too absorbed on going down my path, focusing on what I thought was my life mission. Although I ignored you, you somehow kept walking by my side. Your patience and liveliness irritated me. Yet no matter how much I tried to push you away, you never budged, never seemed to get hurt by my words, and kept walking by my side. You would push through the wilderness, slink through the thorny branches, not questioning a thing. Not being able to understand you made me angry. You were but a hindrance to my only chance of salvation.

Nevertheless, I would finally find your breaking point. I would finally find the right words to make that smile disappear, for those eyes to grow cloudy. I would finally find a way to make you disappear in the mist, fusing with the ghosts that walked without a purpose outside of this trail I was on.

I felt relief. I was finally able to walk forward, continuing my search for that light source. But the further I tread, the more I wondered if I was going down the right path. How long would it take for my frail body to reach the point of ascension? How long before my body would give up on me? How long until I realised that maybe there is nothing else besides this darkness, this mist, the loneliness. Maybe life is purgatory, after all.

Somewhere along the attempts to move forward and the steps taken back out of fear of heading in the opposite direction, my knees would give in, and the ground would embrace me. I was tired. Mentally and physically. A thunderous cry would be heard. And raindrops would start painting my skin. Rain turned into a storm. My emotions fused with the weather. Was this the end of it? Is everything pointless at the end?

In the cold wetness, a warmth would envelop my face, shielding me from the assault of the raindrops. Opening my eyes, I came face to face with you. Despite my cruelty, you found me. Or more so that you kept walking with me while granting me the distance that I needed. You never said a word. Your eyes stared through me, trying to communicate in a more intimate way. They never lost their brightness. They never got clouded by my hatred, by my cruelty.  And somewhere along the warm embrace of your hands and the way your eyes forced me to listen to your heart, realisation dawned on me.

The rain started to cease. The last thunder rang around us upon the realisation of how blind I was. I wanted to push you away, realising how unmotivated my cruelty towards you was. Yet your grip got tighter, forcing me to come to peace with the cognizance that in the end, I was walking in circles. Salvation did not hide in the light behind the mist. It was you all along.

Extinction Gardening, Vol. 1

Author: Manuel Ferrazzo

i overdosed on 21st century

[Content Warning: Substance use, brutality, vulgarity, and sexual violence]

i snorted a skyscraper today.
i let its inhabitants flow in my civilised-white-ash nostrils and
i felt the rush of productivity,
the euphoria of paid slavery,
the lights of steel cogs and fire.

i remembered the first minutes of this millennium,
when the savages attacked other savages,
(which is which?)
and all their lands of god responded by violence.

astral bodies became our new gods,
pushing their product to gather new herds
all around the world.
i remember when they wanted to
crucify christ on live tv,
thinking people would pay to see it.
they would. of course they fucking would.

we raped our planet
and blamed her
because she just couldn’t shut her legs.
i mean, mother nature is a whore.
hunger? what for, hunger doesn’t exist.

i remembered when we handed our power
to hatred, or cowardice,
self-righteousness on all ends,
venomous rats fighting over details,
blindly fighting the other
because they’re other,
because they’re stupid,
because they’re savages,
because they’re black, white, believers, apostates,
etc.

the announcers feeding on fear on one end,
and on the other,
the tin-foiled hats started to talk.
governments are nothing. they mean nothing, in our western world,
they have no power without corporations.
government and corporation:
the king and queen
of our game of chess.

i remembered how we liked to push the weak around,
just for the fuck of it.
is idiocy malignancy? can they live without one another?
who knows? maybe the little birds
singing and screaming
through the cage of light
can explain it to us.
when does stupidity become consciousness
“i’ve never been more awake”
said the dreamer to imaginary nightmares.
truth is relative, baby.
“i’m an ally, he said. just let me fuck you.”

i remembered the neons, on the district,
where red meat finds the mouths of carnivorous rats.
they wear suits and talk about family
and cry for forgiveness when they’re not careful enough.
their victims are called Aileen,
they’re the fairer sex so you think they can’t kill you.
but they don’t eat and they don’t sleep
and they let trauma consume them.

americans love rorschach.
the black and the white are all that they see,
and all blackness is evil, and all whiteness is pure.
they hate when their propaganda use rainbows
to feast on the oppressed,
because they’d rather be brainwashed all alone
rather than sharing their lobotomy.
kill the gays, they cried to god.
kill the muslims,
kill the pigs,
kill them all.

we build the west on the back of the poor,
and otherness is feared as much as familiarity.
look at our shiny towers!
look at our watches, our art, our language!
so perfect.
let us debate all these things in the most secluded place in the world,
with complicated words and caviar
and useless books nobody gives a fuck about,
or let the artists who don’t know
shit about what they’re talking about (like me)
tell you you’re evil and you deserve to die.

like library rats,
they yell about ethics and literature,
fascinated by a useless field
that grows something mostly tasteless,
except when the rain falls on the right leaf,
wherever this leaf came from.
they think themselves as the new thinkers of our world
when their destiny is either to rise amongst the elite
and get infected by their greed,
or die forgotten amongst the useless poor.

you all deserve to die in these gutters.
because misanthropy is cool,
look at me,
i’m not like other boys.
i breathe genocide
and smell of supremacy,
but i don’t even realise it.
nietzsche has never been more popular
amongst self-made men,
even though we all know that,
like the rest of us,
they can’t understand jack shit
of what that nietzsche has written.

who knows who we are.
i mean,
identity…
right?
we become another person
every
minute.
so,
[insert reference to the ship of Theseus]

And yet,
while the noise blinds us,
we’re still here.
In the ruins of skyscrapers,
We remain.

Image: © Manuel Ferrazzo

haiku for a nuclear winter

the white ash cracking
all the dead skeleton trees
sing doom with the wind

Image: © Manuel Ferrazzo

The Eye That Escapes (Consume Me)

[Content Warning: Profanity]

This eye won’t see you,
when you look at it.
It will look the other way,
to the sky, to its God,
and towards indifference.

The white blinds you,
and the fine dark lines around them
drive you off the edge of the world.
The irises, kaleidoscopical,
Sing in mine.

The red appeals to taste,
reminds me of innocence lost
and whoring-Mary, mother of Christ.
You would devour the apple,
if there was no God.

The soft silk hides,
leather binds,
you and my eyes.
Flowers pierced with swords,
and toys with holy crosses.

Image: © Manuel Ferrazzo

this world is gone, yet there’s still beauty

This world is gone.

But in its ruins, we find our souls.
When all breaks, we become one again.

Yet with all souls comes the impending doom,
the element of fear that keeps us awake
every single night.

Fear of losing everything,
when we know we have already lost it.
Fear of smiling,
when there’s nothing to smile about anymore.

This fear guides us back to the light,
back to the hope and the happiness we once had,
it nurses us back to health,
keeps us safe from despair,
from the perspective of our nothingness.

Because, even in a broken world,
there is beauty.
Death is just the Hierophant of Life.
And even if Life won’t have us,
it will endure,
it will prevail, without us.

Image: © Manuel Ferrazzo

Yggdrasil

yearning for the roots,
growing out of the heads of children,
grains of milk-sand
drag the leaves across the night sky.
reaching for the beyond,
abandoning the oneness of all gods,
searching through star-filled nightmares,
i
lead the lost to find the crescent moon they dream of.

Image: © Manuel Ferrazzo

Here’s to Broken Promises

Author: Salomé Emilie Streiff

I hate falling asleep, feeling the grasp of a time I can’t feel and won’t see taking me away. I thread the absence of the hours transformed into seconds. Nights are the ellipses that keep us from tomorrow and, although some are obsessed with the day after, I feel stuck in a narrative where every sentence is conjugated in the past tense. Though I fear sleeping, I loved this one night spent next to you. Feeling your breath on my neck and the soft pressure of your hand on my chest, I found myself decoding your body to find poetry between its lines. There was in the way your eyes haunted my rest a house where I could have found some rest. For a night, we had painted a home with ceilings high enough to dream of later, rooms to raise treasures and a larger bed where we could learn to count till forever. Between these walls of intimacy, we could have learnt the languages of our bodies and the song our scars murmur to each other with our eyes closed. Maybe we would have gotten married, I would have had the white dress I dreamed about as a child, and it would have been intimate enough for you to be yourself. My cousins would have walked with flowers in their hair and our dads would have made a few uncomfortable jokes. Despite everything, your gaze would have been glued to me and I would have spent the day capturing your smile. Your eyes tend to talk more than your smiles. The former are as wide as worlds can be. The latter are as discrete and rare as wonders always have been. I wanted both. On this imaginary day, I would have had in my hand the conviction that we belong to each other. But marriage wasn’t our thing. I left in the morning, leaving you alone with your hopes as I was driving home seated next to my deepest fears. For weeks, I counted the stars, wondering if you ever thought about what we could have been. Do you hate me for being too fragile to start something beautiful and new with you? Do you resent me for the way I said I was not as attached? Did you get enough time between your sleepless nights to picture us happy? Since that night, some parts of the world have changed. The oceans belong to you. The pavements are empty on the roadside. You own the colour black and the label soulmate. Marriage wasn’t our thing, but there is in my heart the trace of vows never said.

For All Mankind: or, How Switzerland Can Do Its Part in the Climate Crisis

Earthrise, taken on December 24, 1968, by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders

Image: © NASA/Bill Anders, “Earthrise,” Public Domain, via Wikipedia Commons, Source.

Author: William Flores

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the lunar surface in the summer of 1969, they planted a US flag. We all know that. A lesser known fact is that their lunar module carried a metal plaque with the phrase “FOR ALL MANKIND.” So, despite Cold War tensions, the US administration recognised the historical significance of the event. It was not just US citizens landing on the moon for the first time, it was all of humanity.

Today, as we face a human-made climate crisis, we desperately need a similar spirit. We are global citizens with a global responsibility. On June 18th Swiss citizens will have the opportunity to do their part. How so?

We are called to vote in a national referendum on the Climate Law, a counter-proposal to the Glacier Initiative, adopted by parliament last year. The law could have already been enforced if it wasn’t for the far-right UDC triggering a referendum.

What does the law say?

Learning from the criticisms made to the failed 2021 CO2 law, the new law focuses exclusively on encouraging the energy transition away from fossil fuels, rather than betting on punitive measures. Essentially, it enshrines the 2050 goal for net-zero emissions nationwide into law, as well as intermediate goals. To ensure that these goals are met, the law directs the government to create a federal fund that will provide 200 million CHF per year to finance homes and buildings switching their gas and oil burners for climate-friendly heat pumps. This is important, because buildings are the second biggest source of carbon emissions in Switzerland after transportation. The law also provides funding for industries to switch to cleaner production methods.

That’s not very radical…

Indeed, it isn’t. This law is not a “giant leap,” but it is an essential step to slow down our descent towards climate catastrophe.

Why did UDC attack it with a referendum?

Officially to “protect the middle class” against an “extreme and expensive” law.

Is there any merit to UDC’s claim?

No, the law does not create any new taxes. The installation of heat pumps would be covered by the government using existing money and would lead to lower and more stable energy prices. The current energy crisis was, after all, caused by fossil gas shortages. But don’t take my word for it, you can read the full bill here: https://gletscher-initiative.ch/fr/le-contre-projet.

Thus, the UDC just seeks attention in an electoral year (parliamentary elections will take place in the fall of 2023). By positioning itself as a “defender of the middle class” and as an “antidote to wokism,” it is clearly riding a populist wave. Furthermore, it seeks to delay on climate action. Let’s not forget that Albert Rösti was, after all, a lobbyist for Swissoil. As the new environment minister, he is now in the awkward position of having to defend the Climate Law, mere months after initiating the referendum against it. Let’s appreciate the irony of that!

Why write this article?

Because as ridiculous as UDC’s arguments and tactics are, the party is known for its successful, populist campaigns. With this article I implore you (yes, you) to vote YES on the climate law on June 18th. If you can’t vote, at least try to encourage others to do so. Talk about the Climate Law and how UDC is blatantly lying. In order to counter the populist narrative, we need all of civil society to stand up and vote and inform others. Think of it not only as the duty of any and all Swiss citizens, but as the duty of any and all human beings in the fight against the climate crisis. As the plaque on the lunar module says: FOR ALL MANKIND.

A Piece of Me

https://pixabay.com/photos/black-white-portrait-black-human-2319024/

Image: © Engin Akyurt, Pixabay, source.

Author: Lyra Willows

In twelve weeks, please take a piece of me in your pocket
And carry me around wherever you go.
I want to be a part of every new experience and sensation.
I want to see all the new places you will see
I want to meet all the new people you will meet
I want to smell all the new smells you will encounter.
Take a piece of me with you before you go,
And let the rest remaining behind perish for a year
A whole year, before you come back and revive it.
Let that piece breathe the air you will breathe
And let it hear every sound and silence you will stumble upon.
Oh please, I beg of you, take a piece of me with you.
Take it and keep it close to your heart.
To keep you company if you ever get lonely.
Take a piece of me to make you feel safe whenever you are anxious.
Take a piece of me, to melt in your chest and always keep you warm.
Take a piece of me to remind you of how much I love you, and therefore,
How much of a wonderful human being you are.
Take a piece of me, to feel every laughter of yours explode inside my chest back home.
Take a piece of me to feel every tear run down your cheek,
For me to know when to contact you to check if you’re okay.
Take a piece of me, and hold it tight in your hand
As if you were afraid to let it go.
Take a piece of me, and when you come back in a year,
Give it back to me
And enrich me with all your new and mesmerizing memories.
Take a piece of me
And fill it up with all the love and care you can every time you think of me
And give it back to me
Give it back
To restore
Happiness and peace
Within me.

Golden Willow Trees

https://pixabay.com/photos/nature-tree-willow-leaves-922625/

Image: © Lenka Sevcikova, Pixabay, source.

Author: Lyra Willows

The fireworks gracefully fall in the shape
Of golden weeping willow trees.
Funny, I thought
For I have a willow weeping in my heart
Like the young girl in the myth my grandmother once told me long ago.

The Face of Heaven & A Footnote

Image: © H.S.

Author: H. S.

The Face of Heaven

I HAVE BEHELD THE HAND OF HEAVEN and it was a sad sight. Deus Pater’s pathetic digits dumb, deaf, and stupid in the void – The hand that made the Alma Mater malleable, thus, malevolent – It made matter mortal, made earth deadening and dead again. That sad blind demiurge – the hand that made all. It clumsily assembled the governments of angels and let them fall through the cracks in the pavement. It made the pavement, it made the cracks in the pavement, it let the pavement crack! It made the border and the walls, it made the cracks in the wall, it made the desire to climb the wall, it made the wall ten feet tall but it sells twelve feet tall ladders. It made the phones numberless bright windows peering into the instant noodle faces of damnation. It made trains as long as the countless sorrows but as nimble as cat hairs. It made the wrinkles and the anti-aging cream. It made the vulvas pink, and the cocks blue. It made the war, it made the warriors, it made the weapons, it made the wounds, it made the salves. It made the war into infinite conflicts, unreal to all but the billion dead.

I HAVE BEHELD THE CRUEL EYE OF HEAVEN, forever unblinking, madly orbiting in its socket – a crazed headlight stuck in a dusty room, turning temptations into realities. Atomizing the hearts and souls of companions, redefining the circles of passions and touches and kisses and connections into infinitesimal dots in the great emptiness – Condemning us to an existence of insane gravitational trajectories parallel and thus never touching; perpendicular lines bumping once and never again to touch despite the infinite space to swerve. We are always watched by the cruel eye of providence lighting the room with gloomy particles of dust in its existential gaze. Its beam goes as far as headlights in the rain, blinding as it illuminates. Each pair of eyes that never blinked transmuting the milk-and-honey of existence into capri-sun and red bull. The eye of heaven nothing less than the thousand cameras inside the brains of Instagram models. Its eyelashes the curtains of your bathroom’s mirror. Its judgment the glasses of your mother. It looks at you through your eyes, it looks at you when you look at yourself in the mirror.

I HAVE BEHELD THE MOUTH THAT SPOKE THE FIRST WORD, and it was a belch. It was a snarl that spun the world, it was a burp that lit the stars, it was the grinding of teeth that terrorized the children into existence – it writhes in agony, its guts are empty although it keeps eating galaxies and solar systems and earths and continents and europes and switzerlands and neuchâtels – it begs mutely for more. Its mouth nothing but the numerous ministers and pastors and priests chanting and occulting each word with other words, sentences upon sentences of scatological pileups. It made them say, “the Kingdom is above, and it is after. God can make the camel fit through the needle’s eye.” The amateur journalists and conspiracy theorists are its spokespersons, an unsealed scroll of false prophetic voices monologuing with empty faces surrounded by halos of light visible in their pupils. It made all discourses equal. It knows nothing but talks plenty. Its voice is heard in political debates and comment sections. It talks to itself alternatively as the expert and the fool, making both feel equally uninformed. It made both parts of the debate manifest, conveniently keeping the third occult communist part forgotten. It is the Socially anxious showing of teeth which amount to socializing. Socialization is just smiling, and smiling is just showing your teeth.

I have seen the face of god and it was a miserable sight.

A Footnote to the Face of Heaven

Be not afraid of the cruel face of Heaven, but rather pity and pardon. Do not hate, nor rage against the face of Heaven.

PITY THE HAND OF HEAVEN, it is an awkward potter. Ignorant but willing. It made matter malleable, perishable, but innocent. It made a kitty named Mittens, and it made it purr so softly. It made wasps curious, and with their insectile snout tickle the eggplants in your sandwich. It made itself into all its creations, but it forgets itself.

PITY THE EYE OF HEAVEN, it is dry and dazed by the horror it sees spinning in front. It has no eyelids, and its gaze is a headlight. Condemned by itself to never sleep but always seek solace in shades it can never find. It wants to see itself to ascertain that it is real, but it forgets itself.

PITY THE MOUTH OF HEAVEN, it has appetite, but no stomach. It eats to feel companionship, but it can never be satiated. It asks many questions but it cannot hear any answers. It tries to sing but it has no ears. It tries to converse, but it is by itself in the void. It eats people, yet it remains unfulfilled. Because the streets are full, but they are empty. It talks to soothe itself, but it forgets itself.

PITY AND PARDON God, it forgets itself in its creations – He does not know that there are no virtues, and no sins. No goods, and no evils. No ups, and no downs. No men, and no women. He does not know that there is only ignorance and wisdom.

PARDON God, for he didn’t trap us willingly, but accidentally imprisoned himself with us, in us.

REMEMBER the Kingdom is not found in the sky; otherwise the birds would find it before you.

REMEMBER the Kingdom is not found in the sea; otherwise the fish would find it before you. 

REMEMBER the Kingdom is not found in the earth; otherwise the worms would find it before you.

REMEMBER the Kingdom is not found in you; otherwise you would have found it already.

REMEMBER the Kingdom is exactly where it cannot be found.

The Bee’s Thorn

Image by edmondlaphoto from Pixabay

Image: © edmondlafoto, Pixabay, source.

Author: Lyra Willows

The bee’s thorn stings me
Like the Rose’s on the Nightingale’s bosom
And my song, once melodious,
Has spiraled into a dreadful scream
As my shrinking throat
Feels as though it were scraped
By a razor blade.

“Tradition Bound but Translation Bent” Living on the Hyphen of Being a Swiss-Brazilian

“Tradition Bound but Translation Bent”1
Living on the Hyphen of Being a Swiss-Brazilian

Author: Aline Romy

i

It is one thing to be a Swiss child in Brazil and quite another to be Brazilian woman in Switzerland.2 As a Swiss child, words like jacaré refused to leave my mouth in the appropriate way.
The professor tells me gently
/ʒa.kaˈɾɛ/
I frown as
/ˈʃa kaˈɾɛ /
leaves my mouth.
The professor repeats /ʒa.kaˈɾɛ/
“What’s the difference?”
As a 12-year-old, somehow the palato-alveolar ejective fricative sounds exactly the same as the voiced postalveolar fricative.

ii

As a Brazilian woman in Switzerland, I am confronted to gross stereotypes that some European males have about Latinas. As soon as my Brazilianness is mentioned I can feel a tone shift. I am perplexed for some time, before I realize why I suddenly feel icky.
“Take your sticky hands away from me.”
Their slimy head associates Latinas with promiscuity. We are all sluts on tinder looking for a Swiss passport.
“I don’t need your Swiss passport. I have my own.”
I am Brazilian and you will not make me feel ashamed. I am also Swiss, and you will not make me feel lesser for being both. But sometimes it is hard to negotiate between my two cultures, to be constantly translation bent, perpetually betraying one language or the other.

iii

“Do you feel more Swiss or Brazilian?”
I try to put it on a scale, to allocate certain traits to each of my cultures. I have had Swiss punctuality drilled into me, but my sense of humor is Brazilian. While being Swiss means precision, Brazil taught me how to improvise, to loosen up at the edges and be less rigid. Some of this is easy, but most of it is a tangled mess, blurred lines, no clear distinction.

iv

If Gustavo Pérez Firmat is a “one-and-halfer” I am an “in-betweener”.
Inhabiting the “in between” space between both countries means I am somewhere, but also nowhere.3 Maybe I’m floating in the middle of the Atlantic. However, I cannot samba to save my life. Too social, too open, too sunny to be fully Swiss. But too antisocial and quiet to be fully Brazilian. I like to mix bright yellow lemons with my green limes when I make my Swiss friends discover the sweetness of caipirinhas made with golden cachaça. The amber liquid aged in balsam barrel’s is a mixture of flavors. Nuts, cedar, honey, tobacco, vanilla.
As a Swiss-Brazilian, Suisse-Brésilienne, Suíça-Brasileira I am always treading on the tightrope of the hyphen that connects my heritages, my cities, my languages. I don’t know where one ends and where the other starts. My two cultures are blindly held on a balancing scale within my heart. Sometimes it tips one way or the other, but it is impossible to know which culture is the dominant and which is the subordinate.4

Image: © by padoriot via Pixabay Source

Image: © by jjandson via Pixabay Source



Works cited

Firmat, Gustavo Pérez. “Introduction: The Desi Chain.” Life on the Hyphen: The Cuban- American Way, University of Texas Press, 2012, pp. 1–19. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/735989.4.




1 From Gustavo Pérez Firmat’s, Life on the Hyphen, 2012, p. 4

2 “But it is one thing to be Cuban in America, and quite another to be Cuban-American” (Firmat, p. 3)

3 Inspired by the quote: “Spiritually and psychologically you are neither aquí nor allá, neither Cuban nor Anglo. You’re “cubanglo,” a word that has the advantage of imprecision, since one can’t tell where the “Cuban” ends and the “Anglo” begins. Having two cultures, you belong wholly to neither one. You are both, you are neither: cuba-no/america-no.” (Firmat, 6)

4 Inspired by the quote: “biculturation designates not only contact of cultures; in addition, it describes a situation where the two cultures achieve a balance that makes it difficult to distinguish between the dominant and the subordinate culture.” (Firmat, p. 5)

Potassium Chlorate

Author: JJ

What about a match burns?
What about a match catches?

Keepsakes in backpack pockets left there to
Crack spines and crumble skulls,
levigated reds cling to surrounding cottons.
Open hands damaged by powdered glass;
Omitted is their visible scarring. Chemicals never to
Oxidize; never to fulfil. Render me purposeless.

A 7-Step Guide to Be Beautiful

Author: Mel A. Riverwood

1. Wake up joyful and refreshed

we rise and we walk.
no need to wake up when we haven’t slept.

we wander in the dark that we know,
without seeing,
to light the one candle we need.

a flame inhabited by our own ghost.

now the ghost in the lighthouse says
‘it’s stupid o’clock again.’
he sees a wreckage going out at sea.

a corpse rotten to the bone,
which unearthed itself alone;
somehow, it remembers how to stand.

flesh hanging from frame,
all organs exposed.
six times they buried us,
seven times we rose.



2. Have yourself a healthy breakfast, baby <3

they don’t expect us to eat.
to eat is to live, to live is to think.
they think we don’t think, and therefore we don’t eat.

but the longer the sleep, the bigger the hunger;
we’ll show them we can devour as much as they did.

come now, lovelies, prepare the feast.
feed the fire and warm the pot,
gnash your teeth and unleash your beast,
tie the roast with a delicate knot.

bring the loveliest ones to the front.
vultures don’t expect a decaying corpse to rise again and hunt.



3. Shower time :)

‘here’s the wreckage again,’ says the ghost in the lighthouse.
‘it’s coming to port, afloat, adrift,
it will sink. it’s torn by a rift.

what storms has it seen, what maelstroms, what tides?
what warmth has it lacked to stand silent and slack
in the falls?
does it wish it weren’t cold?

well, it still hasn’t sunk, gotta keep a cool head.
after all, it’s not drunk yet, nor is it dead.

it’s high tide, the waves flow over the corpse.
come low tide, it rises and walks.’



4. The BEST skincare routine ever, you will be glowing after this

stretch your new skin dress over your broken bones
to hide the strange angles;
stitch up all the wounds that were caused by their stones
at the single light of your candle.

then look at it, stare at it, count the imperfections
think, think again, about all the corrections.
strangle the words, your lips are sealed over.
you hear your reflection scream bloody murder.

the smoother the better, each flaw makes it worse;
but the blessed today will choose to be cursed.
they want us brighter, six windows of shame,
but we want it darker; we kill the flame.



5. Time for makeup! you’re bold and beautiful and I love you

they don’t want to see it, only we’re supposed to know,
our perfect must be invisible, the everyday normal.
be the pearl, but god forbid you be the one to shine;
they will be the first to see you’re stepping out of line.

we refuse to be the grace
to their self-sufficient decadence;
if they deserve our beauty, then we deserve our truth:
they will see, soon; we are ugly too.

they sew the wind, it will be our pleasure to see them reap the storm.
play the role, control the shape so that we fit their form,
sing, ensiren, ensnare, enchant, unhinge the jaw, go for the throat,
strike, drown them in their own sea and sail on their own boats.



6. Walk out there and SLAY my darling

angels now are worshipped; but at first they were feared.
we got the shame, we took the blame, our name was rhymed with villain,
so be it. if we are evil, if we are vile,
why do they still want us down the aisle?

they drew blood first. smile; let’s bare our teeth
and bite the hand that held us beneath.

we polished our anger, we made it a knife
and now we will use it to walk safely at night.
we cannot sing until we tear their hands from our necks.
we will unlearn the art of staying dead.



7. Don’t forget self-care!

tie yourself to your pyre, to that kitchen chair
break your throne, your pride, your hands, cut your hair
and from your bleeding lips, draw the broken, the scarred, the whole, the monstrous
hallelujah.

be the tear falling in heaven,
the laughter in the storm;
and when we will have triumphed,
we will all walk home.

find your voice again. use it to the extreme
you were born a whole being; one ready to scream.




Bonus: a playlist for my witches to fill the silence while you do all this

  1. Waking Up (Acoustic) –– PVRIS
  2. Blood in the Wine –– AURORA
  3. Silk –– Wolf Alice
  4. You Want It Darker –– Anita Lester (Leonard Cohen cover)
  5. 25 –– The Pretty Reckless
  6. Dream Girl Evil –– Florence + the Machine
  7. Amen –– Halestorm