The radio plays all day long requiems, gospel music, oratorios, religious sonatas, laments and lamented songs. In between, “The Sermon on the Mount” as well as extracts from New Testament are heard.
I have never set foot in a church, but I think of God and death more frequently than I used to. Yet I feel no grief. How could you ever feel so, when you are listening to Mozart’s Requiem?
The only thing you can feel while listening to this divine music, besides boredom if music like “riff-verse -refrain- verse-refrain-solo-refrain” is your scene, is veneration and ascension. Perhaps a pinch of jealousy for being but a common mortal in comparison with the “Loved by God”, Amadeus.
Mozart began composing ““Requiem Mass in D minor” shortly before his death. He wasn’t asked by Salieri, as the playwright Shaffer devised and we all saw in Miloš Forman’s excellent movie.
He was commissioned by the eccentric Count Franz von Walsegg who lived in Stuppach and wanted a requiem to be playing in private concerts in tribute to his wife’s untimely death, who passed away when she was twenty years old. The thirty-five-year old Mozart was already very sick when he started composing the work that he had been commissioned and was prepaid half the money.
He knew that he would die and he had said “I write this Requiem for my death”
He didn’t finish it within the time allotted. Charon didn’t oblige with a short time credit to the “Loved by God” – maybe because he couldn’t play chess.
Mozart was buried modestly in a common grave at public expense.
The first thing that crosses my mind is: “How is it possible to let such great people die like that?”
I regret in an instant, I understand how foolish my question is. No man deserves to die destitute, be it Mozart or a “common mortal” in Africa, India or Greece.
Mozart has also given the answer to my next question: “What would you do, if you had just an hour to live?”
I used to ask this question to people I knew. I can’t recall all the answers – I’ve jotted them down somewhere but this “somewhere” is lost in the chaos of my diaries. I remember just a few of them, perhaps the most funny or those who made the cut.
I was asking: “What would you do, if you had just an hour to live?”
A girl had told me: “I would walk in the streets naked”.
Another one she told me: “Love” (and I wished to be in her immediate vicinity just before the end of the world or pull a prank on her: To enter panic-stricken in her house yelling “An asteroid will hit the earth! There’s only one hour left!”
A friend, practicing psychology now, had told me: “You mean, if I had just an hour to live or the whole world?” (This was a crucial clarification. It is one thing that everybody dies and a totally different thing if it is just you).
A mother had told me: “I would hug my child.”
A woman, slightly older than me and single, had told me: “I would tidy up the house. So as not to be found in a mess. (As I comprehend now after all these years, she must have thought of killing herself many times. Suicides always take care of all their unfinished business before they proceed to their insane act.)
Some other had told me: “I would be very sorry”. (just like that)
A friend, who died on the spot a few years later with his bike, had told me: “I would go to the beach and play the guitar. Alone.”
My father had told me: “Don’t speak nonsense”.
Ivan, a stray dog who kicked the bucket shortly after swallowing a poisoned bait, had told me, or at least that’s what I think: “I would eat that bone which I have buried in your backyard”.
Javier, a French guy from Toulouse who was always drunk, told me: “I would get drunk”.
Another friend of mine told me: “I would call everyone I love and all those to whom I was unfair”.
These are the answers I can recall. I’m sure if the question was formulated differently, if the time frame of a day or a year was allotted, the answers would be different.
Perhaps some of them would travel to places where they always wished to be. Many of them would curse their boss using the foulest of languages and then they would hand their resignation with a smile on their face.
Some might get a divorce or murder and eat their husband or wife.
Others might set off munching their way through countless sweets and salty viands, without caring less about their weight.
Many might start going to church every day and praying, something they had never done so far.
Some might begin writing a novel.
No. This thought is very egocentric.
“By the way, what would you do, if you had just an hour to live?” Wolfgang asks me.
“You mean, if I had just an hour to live or the whole world?” I say, making an effort to earn a few seconds.
I would be so sorry. Then I would hug my child and play Playmobil with him for the last time. Then I would make love with my beloved wife. Then I would listen to Mozart’s “A little serenade” (the first part only).
Then I would take a look at myself at the bathroom’s mirror and say goodbye to him with a smile, having understood how insignificant the details that I disliked all this time were.
Then I would eat something, anything, perhaps a slice of bread with olive oil. Then I would sit on the balcony, not because not to smoke in the house, but to see the green leaves and the stars. I would smoke a cigar and drink a glass of wine.
Then I would take my pen and put my last words on paper. Then I would take a look at the moon and my face would crack into a smile.
I would thank God, Universe, Luck, that I lived for so many years and for having the good fortune to meet the love of my life and give birth to the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen – my son.
I would thank God, Universe, Luck, that helped me to make friends, dream with them, stay up late with them, argue with them.
I would thank God, Universe, Luck for revealing to me the sacred mystery of literature.
I would feel grateful for all the travels I did and the places I saw.
Then I would ask for forgiveness that I didn’t make it to offer more to the people – the ones I loved, the ones I got to know, the ones I met, those who lived far from me.
Does an hour suffice to do all these? Can I have a small extra time? One more hour or one more day or one more year? I can play chess!
Give me one more day, my last, to get round to read one more story by Chekhov, to cook a delicious food, to see one more sunset, to read a tale to my son, to drink one more bottle of wine with my beloved, to see a movie (“The Double Life of Veronique”), to listen to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (my apologies Mozart), perhaps something from The Beatles and Nirvana, to write one more story, to smell a jasmine, to…
One last day? One more month? One more year? One more hour?
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Translated by Alexandros Mantas
Since we’re not native speakers, feel free to suggest improvements and make corrections