Observing Sweden 19 August 2013


The Sleep of Reason

We went to another historical event in Säter this weekend. The last asylum, opened 1912, closed 1967. Inmates fell into three categories: the calm, the unreliable, and the dirty and dull. The good, the bad, and the ugly?

There was a gallery of artwork done by long-gone patients; amateurs with less than average talent. There were lots of portraits, a few buildings, trees and cows, that sort of thing. I expected to see a lot of emotion, but the drawings were bland, flat. Maybe that was the emotion.  This one stopped me.


Feels so sad, aloneness . . . emptiness. There was a farm patients worked.  Poor Lars.

            There were the usual torture devices, restraints . . . A tub tie down for the agitated and disturbed. ‘Continuous Bath,’ the treatment was called. Patients were immersed in room temperature water for half a day . . . or more.

Image     They used electroshock. I watched an ongoing black and white film of some guy getting the juice . . . jerking around like one of those old dancing knee puppet kids used to have. A teacher I once taught with had shock treatment as a teenager. He escaped from where he was somehow and hitchhiked from Seattle to Los Angeles. How do we survive these things . . . ? Most of us do somehow.


            They were using all this stuff in the States as well, of course. These asylums were a great improvement, state of the art at that time. The best care possible. They were clean, with patients under nonstop observation. Nobody got hurt beyond the occasional lobotomy.


            These scales were in the kitchen. Such amazing craftsmanship, the detail, from a time when there was lots of time, no cell phones or TV.

            I passed a lace making machine on my way out. Had no idea what it was at first. My wife did. Seemed amazingly complex. You can see a narrow strip of lace coming out at the top of the device.

Image           Now we have psychotropic drugs, and no asylums. There are 40 buildings here. The well kept grounds are like a park, picturesque rolling lawns and trees. Reminded me of something I once read, about a man sitting on a comfortable chair, in a beautiful garden. It’s a perfect, sunlit, summer day, and he’s losing his mind and knows it, feels it crumbling away. Now we have drugs, you can lose your mind without noticing it.

About Bruce Louis Dodson

Bruce Louis Dodson is an American expat now living in Borlänge, Sweden with his wife, cat and dog. He is an artist and world traveler who writes fiction and poetry and practices photography in his less than copious free time. His work has appeared in: Barely South Review - Boundaries Issue, Blue Collar Review, Pulsar Poetry (UK), Foliate Oak, Breadline Press West Coast Anthology . The E-buffet, Qarrtsiluni, Struggle Magazine, Pearl Literary Magazine, Contemporary Literature Review: India, 3rd Wednesday, Sleeping Cat Books - Trip of a Lifetime Anthology, Northern Liberties Review, Authors Abroad - Foreign & and Far Away Anthology, The Path, Page & Spine, The Crucible, Sleeping Cat Books -Trips of a Lifetime, Vine Leaves, Pirene's Fountain,Tic Toc Anthology - Kind of a Hurricane Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Buffalo Almanac and mgv2.
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6 Responses to Observing Sweden 19 August 2013

  1. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words says:

    the picture did feel sad…lost in a world between worlds…
    as one sits and can feel their mind crumbling away….I wonder if the words
    are different inside that crumbling, does it echo or is it a silence…..
    would someone hear and understand if they sit beside the person and took the time to listen
    Take Care…

  2. Thanks for sharing this heart-breaking story. Sadly, the one I know who is losing her mind knows it.

  3. What a moving and thoughtful piece Bruce.. the horror of being powerless amongst well-meaning or sometimes sadistic people who are certain that they know what’s best for you…
    Also struck by the beauty of the building, from what we could see… what subtle beautiful colours the Swedes used on their old houses and buildings…

  4. Jay Wang says:

    Good one, Bruce. The photo of the front doors with the peeling paint is almost as melancholic as Lars’ drawing.

  5. catnipoflife says:

    Lars painting reminds me a lot of Lesley Fletcher’s paintings [http://lesley-fletcher.artistwebsites.com/index.html]. Soulfully abstract.

    Sad state of affairs. The asylum. Not sure what else to say. So much has already been said and written.

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