Tony—wielding a knife and in a dark, husky voice—recited the first paragraph from a chapter of The Cure that, he says, “is my baby,” at AAU’s literary night at the library.
AAU professors Anthony Marais (aka Tony), Stephan Delbos, and Seth Rogoff show an unseen side of themselves at an open book reading of their original works on November 10.
With hors d’oeuvres and wine, students and faculty alike were enthralled into a world of dark mystery with Tony’s book The Cure, relatable fiction with Rogoff’s short story “Boundaries Transgressions,” and pensive poetry from Delbos’s collections, Small Talk and Light Reading, and some of his Czech-English translated works.
The attendees got their books signed, and the professors had an opportunity to showcase their hard work outside the classroom. Though it wasn’t without anticipation and nerves.
“I haven’t done a reading in six years [of this book], and I’m really nervous. No, at a serious level, I’m actually quite excited. It’s just great to have this opportunity. It’s fun,” said Tony before reading.
Going first, Tony set the scene in Wiesbaden, Germany, where he spent a decade of his life. The story centers around the main character’s life crisis and the water that defines the spa town. The book builds on the dark irony that the main character found a cure to his ailments in the spa town when, historically, people went to spa towns to spend their last days, according to Tony.
Next, Delbos read from a few of his poetry books and translated works, starting with a pick-up line on the first page of Small Talk. Suffused with descriptions, unlikely pairs, and metaphors, Delbos bewitched the audience with prose about his hobbies, student life, and more.
The poem that left the air charged was one that an audience member during a reading in the US told him to skip: “Gaza Beach.” He did not skip it. It memorialized the killing of four boys on Gaza Beach.
After such a powerful piece, the audience and lecturers took a break before the final reading. “I’m happy we had a break,” Rogoff said. “I’m not sure I could have followed the final poem.”
Rogoff chose to read his short story “Boundaries, Transgressions” instead of one of his novels the morning of. He wanted to come back to it, as he had never read it for an audience before.
It brought back memories from quarantine and “COVID-times” as it described one odd, seemingly dream-like encounter during a Zoom meeting. Rogoff got some laughs as he described losing focus to the monotony of the “pointless, tedious hour” long call when you “cut the video” and “do other tasks.” It combined the relatable life crisis that COVID brought with his specialty in media history.
Students who attended the lecture were pleased to see a personal side of their professors that you might not see at other universities. In such a small setting, it is hard not to.
“I’ve taken, like, most of my classes with two of the professors who are here,” said AAU student Lora Lukova, “It’s kind of supporting your friends, more or less, because you know these people so well.”