The Top 5 Albums from 2019

by Raph al Guul

Each year I try to listen to between 60 and 100 newly released albums in hopes of hearing some outstanding new music. I consider it my contribution to dispelling the silly notion that music used to be much better in the past. Not every band that made great music in the 80s is gone or washed up today. And there is also plenty of fresh talent that rises to excellence these days.

2019 was a great year in music to close out the 2010s. We’ve had plenty of excellent songs from all corners of the industry. When it comes to albums, it was the stalwarts in particular that came through again. The following five records are particularly dear to my heart. I consider them to be the best albums to have come out this year – at least when taking into account a hefty dose of genre bias.

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The Best Films of the 2010s

By Alan Mattli

The Best Films of the 2010s

I’ve been looking forward to compiling my “Best Films of the Decade” list pretty much since the first days of 2010, after I, still in the early stages of my life as a film critic, had seen these kinds of lists posted about the 2000s – a ritual I couldn’t in good conscience take part in because, well, I was eight years old at the turn of the millennium and I never had done the necessary catching-up. I still haven’t, for that matter.

So I am thrilled to finally be able to present my selection of the best films of the 2010s – a compendium of 100 works that stuck in my mind, that haunted me, that moved me, that I still passionately rewatch. And as is often the case with lists, this one, too, would probably look vastly different if I were to present it on another day, so this selection and especially the individual placements are but snapshots in time.

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Letters Challenges Gender Norms in Games

By Thilo Thelitz

The upcoming Zurich-made video game Letters is “a story about a girl discovering the power of words,” but not in the way you might think as an English student. In the game, you play as Sarah, an 11-year old Swiss girl writing to her pen pal in Russia. You are shrunk down and literally move in between lines of text to pick up words and throw them at your surroundings in order to progress to the next level. For more background on the game and its development, I had an interview with one of the developers, Martina Hotz.

The game is partly crowdfunded through a Kickstarter campaign which has, at the time of writing, reached CHF 19’178 of its goal of CHF 20’000 with only few days left until it ends on November 23! The game is under development already, and you can download a demo. The glimpse of the game I got while playing the demo already transported me back to the days when I was but a young nerd. At the same time, the game mechanics are really quite unique, akin to a puzzle, and make for dynamic and fun gameplay. In a gaming landscape that often produces dark and gritty and tough worlds, it’s also nice to see a wholesome and sweet game like this. The Nintendo kid in me has always preferred the cheery and magical universes over the edgy ones. Lastly, I loved the little homages and references to different aspects of gaming culture that the Letters’ world is strewn with.”There’s a little bit of each of us in the story,” Martina says.

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How much grandstanding can a good deed suffer?

By Nicolas Malzacher

A gust of wind whips at my face and heaves me forward, over the ridge of the oncoming wave. The neon sail impatiently tugs at my waist, forcing me to lean back over the white crests of the Aegean. A sly bead of sweat and brine escapes my eyebrow, only to be received unhappily by my iris. I flinch and blink and try to clear my vision, but it’s too late: I miss a particularly insidious wave, lose my balance, and am catapulted over the bow of my fickle vehicle. The cackling of a passing seagull tells me that I cut an ungainly flying figure indeed. 

I cough up some salt water and heave myself back onto my board, grappling for the rope to haul up the sunken sail. However, I notice a stowaway that has made itself comfortable on the rope; a blue plastic bag from the local supermarket. I remove the fare dodger and throw it back into the water, only to immediately regret doing so. 

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Letters from Abroad: Welcome Week at Warwick

Stephanie Heeb is studying for an MA in English and French at the University of Zurich. During the Autumn Semester 2019, she is completing a semester abroad at the University of Warwick in Coventry.

I had been warned about Welcome Week (or Fresher’s week, as it’s also known). “You won’t get any sleep.” “It’s like a week-long hangover.” “You’ll definitely get fresher’s flu.” And to be honest, I was rather apprehensive about the experience. I thought Welcome Week would be all about drinking, and while I do enjoy the occasional night out, a week of partying sounded like hell to me. So while I was hopeful I’d make friends, I felt rather doubtful about this first week. There weren’t even going to be any actual classes – was there really much point in being there? 

 It turns out there was – Welcome Week turned out to be such a joyful experience that I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The best thing I did in preparation was to connect with other students in advance. I had joined a Facebook chat for other incoming study abroad students, which was useful in preparation for the exchange, as we were able to ask each other questions about housing and registration. But it was on the first night especially where I was really glad to know there were some people I could go out and grab a drink with. I was anxious that I would spend the first day sat in my (rather depressing) room alone; but it ended up being a lovely evening, where I got to know a couple of people over a pint in the Student’s Union’s pub.

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Elif Shafak – a Gem of Contemporary Turkish Literature

By Leah Süss

After four semesters of studying English, I have realized that the novels that touch me most belong to the field of postcolonial literatures. However, my interest in “non-Western” literature had already been sparked years before university. I realised early on that immersing into a different culture’s experiences and its stories can be highly enriching, as it allows me a better understanding of other people’s realities, which finally enabled more tolerance and a better understanding of the world’s complexity. Reading a story of a white woman’s struggles in early Europe, for example, is touching as it seems to be easy to identify with the protagonist. But what about being confronted with a Kurdish male character who decides to kill his mother in the name of honour? This may sound less comfortable but, all in all, it can be extremely helpful to understand important issues with religious and cultural differences that are still prevalent today.                                                            

One of my favourite authors who allowed me such an experience is Elif Shafak. Having read almost every novel of hers, I count three of her books to my all-time favourites. Currently, I am reading her latest novel, and she keeps amazing me. Thus, I would like to introduce you to this talented and inspiring Turkish woman.

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