Archive for the ‘Baragnon (Louis)’ Category

The Erotectomy

January 27, 2013

Auguste Roubille By what series of unforeseen circumstances, by the pull of what subtle strings did I, alone perhaps among my sensible fellow men, first come to meet and then penetrate the mystery of the psychotherapeutic institution of Doctor X—a character whom reality borrowed from some tale of Hoffmann or Poe—well, it doesn’t really matter to the public. The fact remains that one morning of late I was at the door of this secret clinic, hidden in plain sight in the suburbs of Paris.
The room I entered was exactly like the amphitheater of a hospital. An intense brightness seeped through the glass walls and illuminated the tiered benches and the instruments gleaming in large bowls filled with carbolic water and right in the middle of the semi-circle an empty bed—more sparkling than pure silver, more out of place than a clown.
The auditorium looked full already—strange auditorium! Some of the faces were frozen in shock with inexpressible suffering. Others were twisted by maniacal spasms. Some of the most tragic stared out of unevenly dilated pupils—and their masks were motionless.
My soul battled between astonishment and anxiety. The chief assistant of Doctor X was passing by my row. I leaned over to him, “All these beings who were fidgeting around, are they curious spectators or are they patients?”
“They’re both,” he answered. “The Doctor’s method is to include the residents in his research. It amuses them at first: primary condition for a healthy mental therapy. And then, seeing others cured, they end up hoping to be cured themselves. All these onlookers really are crazy, if you’d like, but they’re consciously crazy, sometimes even willingly—crazy in love! Ah! The one we’re going to operate on has a great story…”
The assistant did not have time to finish his sentence because a thin young man with snow-white hair—the Doctor—had entered during his final words and was already speaking aloud.
“I don’t have to tell you, gentlemen, why we are gathered together within these walls. For the first time, before your very eyes, I will attempt a surgical treatment of Love…”
But at the word Love, shouts broke out. In a flood of brutal words the wild desires of some were unleashed; while others, enraptured, their hands clasped together, seemed to glorify a Madonna in the azure.
Silence was a long time coming.
“Gentlemen,” resumed the mythical, professorial Doctor—and his voice quivered with a metallic accent—“nothing is impossible for Science. It needs only time and the self-sacrifice of its servants. One day it will break all of our chains. One day it will make us masters of the world and we will be, as that old oriental book said, like unto gods knowing the secrets of things. Though this day will not shine for a while, at least we will have contributed a little to bring its dawning closer when we have conquered the fatality of the Unconscious in its most formidable form, which all of us have suffered.
“You know, gentlemen, how far the study of cerebral localization has progressed in this century. Since Broca we have revealed the properties of the third gyrus of the left frontal brain, and in stimulating or paralyzing this encephalic region by the appropriate means the practitioner can, at his will, like a water faucet, make words flow forth or dry up.
“In my own particular life, I have ventured to find out whether this completely new and fantastically fertile doctrine might not be applied to the study of the pathology of Love, particularly in treating that malignant form that I name here for posterity ‘Erotitis’.
“There’s no need for long experimentation to discover that a passion that penetrates and saturates every man, that suffers or rejoices in his physical and moral sensibility, automates in his central nervous system, objectifies itself in his imagination, fuses with his memory, overexcites or depresses his intelligence, strengthens or decimates his regal faculty, the will—that such a passion, I say, from which, perhaps, not one of our cells escapes, can acknowledge only one diffuse localization.
“So, the first difficulty to overcome was this: to track down Love, chase it out of the territory that it usurps everywhere and corner it into a pre-determined and accessible fold in the cerebral substance.
“Unsolvable problem? No, gentlemen! The problem is solved. It is not the time now to go into detail about what combined action of the most potent modifiers of the nervous system, especially by what methodical use of hypnotic or suggestive psychotherapy it was possible, in the patient I present to you today, to isolate Love and concentrate the Erotitis into a specific point in the brain, lying just under the occipital-parietal suture. I will simply say that humanity as much as scientific curiosity made surgical intervention a duty in this particular case. This patient, gentlemen, has already attempted suicide twice; and there’s every indication that he will do it again and again until he finally succeeds. Thus, the patient is really truly desperate and because of this, even leaving aside all other considerations, our attempt is clearly justified.”
During the Doctor’s speech a man, whose face was wrapped in a large compress giving off a sharp odor, was laid on the aluminum bed by the aides. The surgeon tied a white cloth around his neck and put his drill up to the patient’s shorn head. While the drill bit screeched a red stream suddenly spurted out.
The man fidgeted, incoherent words escaped his lips: “Chin!… Waterfalls!… Beloved!…”
“Give me the extractor,” the Doctor said. “See it, gentlemen, just a few centimeters of the bony substance is removed… Pass the haemostatic tweezers!… I make an incision in the brain… Again the tweezers! And the retractors!…”
“Madeleine!” cried the patient. “I don’t want to!”
“The young man protests, but we’re going all the way to cure him!… The other sponges, gentlemen, the other sponges! This pulp bulging here under my finger is where we have, for posterity, localized Love. We are going to cut most of it off. For love, like for cancer, a recurrence is always to be feared. Notice that under the gray substance, I have reached and I am sacrificing an equal portion of white substance. The Erotitis is equally sensory and motoric. We shall leave it no refuge, not a fiber left to tyrannize the brain!”
The patient’s head was hanging, spiked with tweezers that were clicking around the lips of the wound. The Doctor gave a final slice and straightaway his bare arm, red up to the elbow, lifted up and brandished a bit of brain flesh at the end of his instrument.
Then there arose from the benches of the amphitheater a torrent of shouts, curses and weeping, like from slaves terrified of a deliverance for which they had given up all hope.
And the raucous chorus of mental patients around the Doctor, who was weeping, victorious and haggard, sang a hymn of revenge—a hymn that still terrifies my memory!—while spitting on the hideous debris, they cursed it, trampled it and in doing so destroyed all the suffering and all the joy of Humanity!

The Erotectomy by Louis N Baragnon (La Revue Blanche, November 1894)


%d bloggers like this: