The international department asked me if I could go to a conference at the library to celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. I explained that I hadn’t read Shakespeare in over 8 years and admitted I don’t even like Shakespeare. They promised I would only have to read some poems.
On the day of the event I finally opened up the program and found my name under a presentation on the importance of Shakespeare in the United States. This was one of my biggest fears; giving a presentation on something I don’t like in front of a conference unprepared. The day of the conference I also found out none of the university staff will be attending the event so I kinda got tricked into doing this pro-bono work at the library.
Grudgingly I printed out a lecture on Shakespeare off the internet, imagined super embarrassing Q and A session and headed off to the library. Arriving, they gave me a seat at the front and I sized up the crowd; high schoolers and babyshkis.
Usually at these events, they kid and say they are so glad I am here so they can put the word “international” on the program, so I calmed my nerves by saying they just want to hear some pretty English sounds. When my turn came, I hiked up the podium and read my 10-minute English speech about how Shakespeare is just as great as Pushkin and Goethe intermittently looking up to make eye contact to the several dozen puzzled faces.
The next lady up was a translator. She fell in love with the Russian translations in her childhood and wanted to get the original version, so she wrote to a publisher in London not knowing if the letter would ever get through to them given the strict KGB censorship. The publisher did in fact get the letter and sent her a little purple book. She showed it to us swelling with pride. She later reminisced on her time rehearsing Shakespeare’s sonnets in school and said it was one of the greatest memories of her life. All the while she looked like she was going to cry. I gave a quick glance around and the MC was tearing up and some of the babyshkis were also tearing up.
Literature is very serious.