Requiem by Peer Hultberg
We all carry a secret. In Requiem, a prose composition of short internal monologues, we are allowed a glimpse of the pain that most people feel but few admit to. These feelings of embarrassment, anxiety, agony, belittlement, deceit, frustration, disappointment and lust, often instigated by perceived offences, grow larger and more significant the longer they are dwelled upon, sometimes snowballing into a crescendo of unbridled fervour. For example, a man stubbornly refusing to ask for directions, a woman balking at the idea of using a public toilet, someone with a raging headache, an unappreciated Cordon Bleu chef, a man left short at the bureau de change: all manner of social interactions, both the everyday and the exceptional. Taken together, they can seem a cacophony as each character vents their innermost feelings, yet this maelstrom also forms a symphony, an assembled repose of all the unvoiced thoughts that we encounter on any given day.
Requiem consists of 537 roughly
page-long chapters, each a single winding sentence, a single stream of consciousness. There is no over-arching narrative between the individual components, though each has a tale to tell. There is a range of instantly recognisable experiences, as well as some that strike a darker and more sinister chord. It can be tempting to guess who these voices might belong to – a historical figure? A friend? A lover?
Requiem can be read from cover to cover, or simply opened at a random page to allow one voice, one character, one purge of thought to petition the reader. A stage version featuring 80 of the 537 characters was performed in Denmark in 2018.
Peer Hultberg was a writer and psychoanalyst. Requiem secured his place in the Danish literary canon, and his work has been translated into Polish, German, Dutch, French and Swedish. Hultberg was awarded the Danish Critics’ Prize (1992), the Nordic Council Literature Prize (1993) and the Grand Prize of the Danish Academy (2004).