Psychiatry, the Crossroads of Dead Ends
Investigation on « voices in the head »
Translation: Isabelle Aubert-Baudron,
corrected by Jill Fryer (1st Dec. 2003)
(The retranscription of the recording in this chapter was realized for the first time in 1982, in English, for William Burroughs, who was interested in the voices in the head heard by schizoprenic patients, and was conducting researches about the voices recorded by Constantin Raudive and the work of Julian Jaynes on bicameral brain: see the chapter It belongs to the cucumbers, William Burroughs, The adding machine : selected essays.) On the same subject, see the interview of William Burroughs by Victor Bockris, Au secours, docteur Burroughs! La dernière interview que je ferai jamais.)
Mr B was a man of about fifty years old. Of medium height, he was dressed years after years with a faded mottled beige jacket, and unpaired suit trousers. His hair was grey, thin and capped behind. He was often wearing, in summer as in winter, a brown felt hat.
When the hospital opened, he had arrived flanked by the label of schizophrenic. The asylum of the district where he was hospitalized since fifteen years had transfered him in the framework of sectorisation (politic of mental health applied in France since 1960, organizing public psychiatry in geographic sectors) for him to be closer to his family. He had one wife and two daughters, who never gave sign of life since his arrival.
At the beginning, as the hospital was an opened place, he tried to have some walks to the city, and used to stop in a bar to drink a glass of wine. Coming back in the care unit, he was feeling so guilty for liking alcoholic beverages, though he never drank to the point to be drunk, that he put an end to those walks.
Since he was remaining in the enclosure hospital. When the weather was warm, he used to go and rest at the sun on the parking. His activities were limited to visits to the cafeteria, and to the writing of some rare articles for the magazine of the hospital he was preciously keeping a copy of every issue in his bedroom. He had the complete collection. He ended in interrupting this occupation, and even if he was going on buying the magazine, he had stopped reading it, saying that, as he did not read all the articles, he was fearing the revenge of the ones he neglected, attributing to them a life and a will of their own.
His propensity to drink coffee had generated between the personnel and him relations based on the control of its consumption of this drink. Like others patients, he used it to fight the effects of his drugs and generally filled up his bowl of a quantity of coffee equal if not higher than the volume of water. In front of the limit which were put to him, he reacted by some weak protest, going away in mumbling, with a resigned look, getting back to his room or to the radiator of the unit against which he used to lean, to observe the comings and goings an singing from time to time. His discretion and his docility had made of him become forgotten in the unit. His relations with the psychiatrists were limited to a daily hand-shake.
He maintained with the others hospitalized the most of the time courteous contacts; with some he used to evoke his past, the war which had led him to Germany then Tunisia, a long time before his first contacts with psychiatry. He could hardly bear however that some other patients exceed the fixed limit concerning coffee and did not hesitate to denounce the eventual glutons to present staff, adopting the mimic of a sneaking child : » Sir, So and So is drinking the whole pot of coffee in the kitchen! «
Mr B was a polite, even deferent man . Towards the staff he adopt ed the attitude of subordinate in front of his hiérarchic superior, lowering his head, looking at the ground, never omiting to finish his sentences by a respectful » Mister » or » Madam « .
Small facts of everyday life which would appear unimportant to the majority of people held for him a great importance. As a smoker, he sometimes happened to him to request or give a light. Each time he scrupulously noted on a small notebook the name of the person with whom ihe had had this exchange and used to give him an account regularly: » You owe me, or, I owe you a light X time » When his interlocutor was surprised, he answered by saying that giving a light was not negligible, that the good counts make good friends and that he did not want owe anything to anybody.
He spent his days thinking and observing. He was not a talker. I heard him once speak about his wife. He had never stopped loving her and, although he was very sad she did not give any news, he was excusing her, attributing his silence to his sickness : » I am just a poor madman « , he said He had covered the walls of his room with sentences dedicated to his wife written with a lead pencil : » I love more than more than trilliards of time Mrs B. » One day she asked the divorce and obtained it, without to have re-refered to her husband.
Mr B had withdrawn himself from the world of the livings and refused inavitably all the proposals which were made to him for walks or going the cinema : » No, Madam, I cannot go there, my pronouns do not agree. » I tried several times to know more, asking him for explanations on these mysterious pronouns, without success. He mumbled some inaudible sentences then and went away in singing, interruptiung the conversation. No nurse knew exactly what they represented for him , but they seemed to have a negative role. One day, as I was presenting his drugs to him, he said to me : » My pronouns need to be treated, not me. » Then he went away with , looking worried.
I liked Mr B. I appreciated his courtesy and endeavoured to talk to him the same way. As for the limits which my function of nurse intimated me to pose to him, I explained them to him as related to his health. Although he was not convinced, he was pleased that I respected the forms and answered by shaking the head with a resigned look : » I understand, Madam, I understand. » When I used to come to work, he used to leave his radiator to come me give a hand-shake and, raising his hat, he never omited to accompany his welcome with a reverence that I gave back to him. His face then was animated with an expression of amused connivence. After several years, we maintained the tacit relations of mutual respect and complicity.
From time to time, he came in the office in the evening after the dinner whereas I examined or filled files and as the other people were in bed orwatching television. He used to sit down and, to exchange sometimes some words , he used to spentd one hour with me. I proposed him to use this free hour to talk one moment with him as I used to do it with some other patients, and told him I was at his disposal if he wanted to speak about important subjects to him.
One evening, he entered the office and, on his sneaking tone, he said: » Madam, one of my pronouns does not want to believe that the pope is Polish. » This was the first time that he asked me to interfere in this field. I decided to play the game and, acting as an inspector collecting the deposition of the plaintiff, I decided to inquire about the famous pronouns. I put on the tape recorder which I carried with me from time to time. The conversation which follows is the faithful retranscription of the dialogue we had then. It was, to my knowledge, the first time that Mister B accepted to deliver a detailed explanation about what he was living and to draw a map of his inner territoy.
Mr B: pronouns
I.B. : What are you telling me ? Your pronouns don’t want to believe that they are in T. hospital ?
Mr B : No, no, my pronouns, male and female, they don’t want to believe that I am in T. hospital. And my « One » does not want to believe that the pope is Polish.
I.B. : I beg your pardon ?
Mr B. : My « One » does not want to believe that the pope is Polish .
I.B. : Oh, yes, that the pope is Polish . And the other ones ?
Mr B. : The « We » agrees .
I.B. : the « We » agrees ?
Mr B. : Hmmmm, hmmmmm ! yes madam, yes madam, My « Sins » too.
I.B. : The « Sins » Too ?
Mr B. : The « Sins », yes,. (Sings) My « I » answers : « yes-no, yes-no, yes-no ». My « Id » does not want to believe either that the pope is Polish.
I.B. : The « Id » neither ?
Mr B. : My « Self », my « Self ».
I.B. : Ah ! The « Self » does not want to beleive it.
Mr B. : My « Id » thinks that the pope is Polish, he agrees. Then, there is the « Me », the « Self », the « Id », the « The ». The « Consciousness » does not want to believe it either.
I.B. : The « Consciousness » either ?
Mr B. : I think I have said all of them. How many ?
I.B. : (reading) The « One », the « We », the « Sins » the « I », the « Id », the « The » the « Ego », the « Self », the « Consciousness »… Which one is missing ?
Mr B. : The « Voices in the Head », may be.
I.B. : Oh, yes, the « Voices in the Head »
Mr B. : The « Voices in the Head » agree that the pope is Polish.
I.B. : But how can’t they…
Mr B. : My « One » can’t read, nor write, nor count. The « One » is an indefinite pronoun. He does nothing definite, so he does not do anything. All he does is not definite. All things that have been done have been definite. They do not come from the « One ». It is practical because the « One » wants to inherit from everything.
I.B. : Does the « One » steal things from the other ones ?
Mr B. : Ah, yes, ah, yes !
I.B. : Do your pronouns fight sometimes ?
Mr B. : Yes madam, yes madam. (inaudible) My « One » slangs me.
I.B. : Your « One » slangs you ?
Mr B. : Yes, yes.
I.B. : But do they argue altogether ?
Mr B. : Yes, yes, madam, yes. The « One » has tried to kill himself, the « One » tried to kill the « I »… Yes, the « One » tried to kill himself to made a dead one.
I.B. : How ? Wait a minute. The « One » tried to kill himself …
Mr B. : To make a dead one. My « One » is for the death. I told my « One », « Kill yourself, you will get a death ! » and the « One » agreed. My « One » is unconscious, under-developed, etc…
I.B. : Why is the « One » for death ?
Mr B. : Because he is lazy and slothful. To inherit. (inaudible).
I.B. : And you think of the pronouns wanted, they could kill themselves ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes madam. There is something that has been put between the pronouns for them not to kill themselves. But I don’t know if (inaudible)…
I.B. : a,d, if your pronouns would kill themselves, would you still exist ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes, madam. One killed me, one killed me. One took all my resources away from me. It’s my « One » who leads. It’s my « One » who leads. When I became ill, they killed my « One »… they killed me, it was me who was working.
I.B. : Who killed you ?
Mr B. : Well, I don’t know, may be not killed but…
I.B. : I mean , were they precise people ?
Mr B. : They were women, to cure me, to treat me. It was my « One » that needed to be treated, not me. If there is no other pronoun, the « One » does not work, so if the « One » destroys me ,the « One » does not work.
I.B. : And those pronouns, you talk about them as if they were kind of parasitis ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes madam. The one I prefer is the « The » (inaudible)
I.B. : And could not you try to get rid of them ?
Mr B. : All alone, I can’t. (inaudible)
I.B. : And you think your pronouns could kill you if they wanted to ?
Mr B. : Yes, they could kill me. Yes, madam. Not all, but some, some. Me too I would kill some, well, I do not know of I could kill some. Anyway, I can give them back the pain they made me endure. I can’t give it all back , but I shall give them back sooner or later what they made me endure… My « One », my « Voices in the Head »… My « I » had declared me kaput. I was French, more than more than French, etc., My « One » had declared me kaput. I do not know if it was in Germany, during the world war 2 , etc… My « Voices in the Head » had declared me kaput…
I.B. : The tried to kill you ?
Mr B. : Yeah, yeah ! My « One », my « Voices in the Head », my « I »…
I.B. : But what was their interest in doing this ?
Mr B. : Because I wanted to work. My « One » (inaudible)… my « One » was preventing me from being honest, faithful, clean, polite, he was preventing me from sleeping, from taking a nap, from working, from eating, my « One »… He was preventing me from sleeping, from having a nap, from washing… My « One » does not fucking care about anything. And time does hot interest him; he wants to get drunk, etc…
I.B. : Is it for that reason that you told me that Mr L (the psychiatrist) should treat your pronouns and not you?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes madam. The ten of them, male, female, the ten of them.
I.B. : Mr B. : Treat the ten of them ?
I.B. : Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes, madam.
I.B. : But, yes, but, how could they be treated ?
Mr B. : Orally.
I.B. : But you would take the medicines ?
Mr B. : Yes, my body would take the medicines but if they are medicines for… anti-« One » medicines, or to become reasonable, medicines that would make me superior to the other pronouns, my pronouns would be treated, I would agree with this. So they could see that … (inaudible).
I.B. : In fact, what you would like is us to help you to fight against your pronouns ?
Mr B. : That my pronouns become more conscious, lucid, so I could understand, I could obey, etc… For my « the », it’s okay, but for the other ones, it’s not…. My « The », it’s a lot, a lot of advantages of … It’s thanks to my « The » if I more , more adore myself, millions of eternity of times.
I.B. : It means that you adore yourself and not the pronouns ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes, madam. I more, more adore myself millions of eternity of times, but I have already said this. …. (Sings) I work. If you destroy me, well, heu …
I.B. : I beg your pardon ?
Mr B. : I work, so if someone destroys me, my other pronouns will not work anymore.
I.B. : Well, yes.
Mr B. : I need to work to get a little bit of money, pocket money, etc. Sometimes, I use my « I » to talk, of my « Me » to talk, and all I have done is involuntary, I did not do it on purpose. It is my fate, or I was afraid, or all the good things I have done, what I have done, I did not do it in purpose, it was my destiny.
I.B. : The strange thing is that your pronouns would like to destroy you. This is not their interest.
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes, madam. Yes, but the One who confuses everything, well, he does not know what he does, you have to understand him, he does not want to believe that the pope is Polish, if I fight against him, he will kill me. I told him several times, but he does not want to admit it.
I.B. : And how can he kill you ?
Mr B. : Heu, he can kill me… with thoughts, with thoughts. (Sings)
I.B. : How ? You think that some thoughts can kill ?
Mr B. : Pronouns who can kill , yes.
I.B. : It means they would give you thoughts that would make you kill yourself ?
Mr B. : Yes, also, yes, my « One », my « One » had me killed when I was young; when I became ill, the doctor (not understandable) If my « One »… If I had stopped working, I did not exist anymore. And as I work, if I did not exist, I would not work. My body would not work.
I.B. : And when did they appear, those pronouns ? According to you ?
Mr B. : Not all, but since youth. My « The », I have been knowing him since some years only.
I.B. : Which one ?
Mr B. : The « The ». The other ones… (inaudible) but every time they make me make a fool of myself.
I.B. : They did not appear at the same time ?
Mr B. : No, madam, no, madam. (Sings ). My « One » is arrogant … (inaudible) he cannot see that the pope is Polish, he does not see the work I am doing. He does the opposite, he puts me down… the « One » prefers to drink than to eat. My « One » prefers to drink than to work. My « One » , if I make him brave, he is against my body, my « One », if I make him brave, he is against my body. This is wrong. He can be against enemies, O.K., but not against my body. Not against the French men and women. My « One » did not want my body. If my « I » has to pay, my « One » does not want to pay. My « I » does not want to pay either. He would pay with a child, or a person, in making him unhappy.
I.B. : You think he could kill other people as well ?
Mr B. : The « The » ? yeah, yeah !
I.B. : And how ? Just by deciding it ?
Mr B. : there also is the mind that the « Id » kills too, the « Id », he kills too. The « Id » who kills.
I.B. : But in that case it would be across you ? He would make you kill other people ?
Mr B. : My « One » wanted to, yes, yes. My « One », the « Voices in the Head »
I.B. : They would have pushed you to kill other people ?
Mr B. : Yeah ! Yeah ! I have no right to talk about the army, but, well, heu… I do not say anything, but well, you understand ?
I.B. : Who told you that you are not allowed to talk about certain things ?
Mr B. : About the army ?
I.B. : Yeah ?
Mr B. : I was not allowed to talk about the army, and I was not allowed to say I was not allowed to talk about the army.
I.B. : When you were in the army ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes, madam.
I.B. : But now, it’s all over ?
Mr B. : Yes, but it still remains. I am not allowed to talk about army. And not only me, all soldiers are not allowed to talk about the army, otherwise they would be considered as sneaks.
I.B. : And you think the army could bear you a grudge ?
Mr B. : Not anymore. I’m 50, I don’t know, I am disable or I don’t know. Anyway, I speak about it as less as possible.
I.B. : O. K.
Mr B. : And I prefer not to talk about it…. to be able to fight, I was more than more than a king millions of times king, then my « One » was putting me king, and used to tell me « I’ll have my own back for this. » My « One was putting me king, and was telling me : « I’ll have my own back for this. »
I.B. : He did not want you to be a king ?
Mr B. : Yes, he wanted me to be a king, but he wanted me to pay for it.
I.B. : How did he want you to pay?
Mr B. : Well, I don’t know… my « One » wanted me to pay with a bottle of Rum.
I.B. : And to be a king, for instance…
Mr B. : I was more than more than a king, millions tima a king, when I was not interested in being a king.
I.B. : You were a king of what ?
Mr B. : A king of what ? I do not know. I never definite it.
I.B. : Because I mean, when one is a king, one has a kingdom
Mr B. : Ah, yeah, yeah, my « One » was putting me king but…
I.B. : He was putting you king ?
Mr B. : Yeah…
I.B. : All right, he was telling you « O.K., you are gonna be a king but in exchange you pay me a bottle » ?
Mr B. : I was more than more than a king, millions times king, but I was not interested to be a king, and my « One » did not understand that.
I.B. : And which advantages did it bring to you to be a king ?
Mr B. : No advantage, I was more than more than a king.
I.B. : But I mean, to be a king was changing something in your life ?
Mr B. : It was lowering me.
I.B. : It was lowering you ?
Mr B. : Yes, millions times king, more than more than a king, it’s a lot, a lot more than being a king.
I.B. : Yes, but, I don’t know, a king, it’s a, it’s a…
Mr B. : It’s a title of honour.
I.B. : Yes ?
Mr B. : I was not interested in… It’s as if someone wanted to pass his General Certificate of Education and one would tell him « you’ve passed your certificate of Elementary studies ». There is not more difference than this.
I.B. : Well, could you repeat ? I did not understand.
Mr B. : I prefer to be more than more than a king or millions times king than being a king.
I.B. : It’s not the same ?
Mr B. :No, it’s not the same, it’s more, more, etc., than a king.
I.B. : Well, I see.
Mr B. : I was I do not know how much more than a king.
I.B. : Which pronoun appeared first ?
Mr B. : To tell you the truth, I do not remember.
I.B. : Did you notice it ?
Mr B. : Well, my « One », a bit… well, the One does not forget himself, the One does not understand what it means more than the « One »; my « One » does not understand, I was telling you the « One » does not know how to read nor to write nor to count, he only defends himself, he does defend the body, he does not defend the pronouns, he just defends himself… the « One » is always (inaudible)
I.B. : Did you ever meet other people who had pronouns ?
Mr B. : Well, yes. Everybody, all the French men and French women I have met had pronouns… (inaudible) … Any French man or woman has pronouns.
I.B. : For instance, do you thin k I have pronouns ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes, madam.
I.B. : And they are the same as yours ?
Mr B. : Some are the same, yes, some are the same…
I.B. : And could the pronouns of two different persons communicate ?
Mr B. : Yes, by waves.
I.B. : They ?
Mr B. : By waves, by smells, waves, waves. I think there are separations between the pronouns for them not to kill each other.
I.B. : Inside one person ?
Mr B. : Inside me, inside me. I don’t know for other people, but for me, yes… (Sings).
I.B. : And how were they born, these pronouns ? did they appear one day ?
Mr B. : They appeared at every growth, at every growth, there was one more pronoun… I don’t know if I told you, the pronouns, and the names are added at birth.
I.B. : The Christian names, and the name, yes.
Mr B. : But the pronouns are fixed in the throat, in the vocal chords.
I.B. : O.K.
Mr B. : The pronouns are part, in a way, of the anatomy.
I.B. : And do the pronouns make noises when they think ? When they speak ?
Mr B. : Well, when they speak, one listen to their words.
I.B. : Yes, but when they speak to you ?
Mr B. : Through my thoughts, through my thoughts.
I.B. : Don’t you think, for instance you could heat the pronouns of someone else speaking.
Mr B. : No, I don’t know… but some, in spite of everything, can seduce or make think at distance; it does not mean we think the same, but they can make think… by fear, ort threats, voices at distance, fear remains…
I.B. : In fact they are only interested by control , except the « The » ?
Mr B. : Well, the « One » is interested in himself; when he accommodates himself, the one would kill anyone.
I.B. : But the only thing they are interested in is control ? to control you ?
Mr B. : It’s to get me, to get me.
I.B. : To get you ?
Mr B. : Yes, My « One » had declared me kaput in military time, my « One » had put me kaput in Germany, in 1939 or 1945 or in Tunisia, my « Voices in the Head » too, my « Sins » too had put me kaput… (inaudible)
I.B. : Pardon ?
Mr B. : My « One » does not want to believe that when my body is dead, my « One » will not exist anymore.
I.B. : He thinks he will live longer than you ?
Mr B. : Oh, yes. He did not tell me that, but he surely thinks that; if he has not thought about this, he agrees with it… My « Voices in the Head », also, my « I », my « Sins ».
I.B. : And you, what is your opinion ? You think he will die ?
Mr B. : My « One » ?
I.B. : Yes.
Mr B. : Yes, but after me.
I.B. : After you ?
Mr B. : To inherit. The « One » inherits everything.
I.B. : Yes, but he will not be able to exist without you ?
Mr B. : Yes, he will be above to exist but he will not be… he will not know what talk about, he would act no matter how, if he had money, he would be drunk all the time, my « One » would get drunk; my « One » has never worked once I was born; even before I was born, my « One » » did not work.
I.B. : Before you were born ?
Mr B. : Yes, the « One » has not been working since centuries. The « One » never worked, he will never work, according to me. He is an indefined pronoun (inaudible) . My « One » had put me kaput, my « Voices in the Head » had put me kaput, my « Conscience », my « I » . (Sings) I already said it, my « One » tried to put me brave, but he is brave against me, against my body, so what ? I can’t get anything from the « One », I can’t do anything with the « One ».
I.B. : He is stronger than you , that’s why…
Mr B. : Stronger, and slyer or more etc…
I.B. : As you say, the pronouns should be treated.
Mr B. : Yes, yes, all of them, masculine, feminine, the ten of them (Inaudible)
I.B. : And could you manage without them ?
Mr B. : Without my pronouns ? Yes, ma’am, yes ma’am. I could sleep, I could eat, I could drink, I could work much more. My « One » misleads me by thoughts. He makes me go downstairs two or three times to see of the dinner has arrived, if the diner has arrived. (Mr B generally goes and fetch for the meals when they are brought in the hospital and takes them upstairs in the care unit.)
I.B. : The « One » ?
Mr B. : Yes madam… My research has coincided with something valuable, to make believe that it was coming from the « One ».
I.B. : To make believe ?
Mr B. : To make believe it was coming from him, from the « One ». Because it coincided with. I don’t know, it happened some years ago, I don’t remember when. My « One » wanted to make believe it was coming from him, but it was not true.
I.B. : And before you began to talk about these pronouns, there has not been much time since you talk about them…
Mr B. : Yes, madam, I had begun in N. and Mr Bardo had told me, he was a chief-supervisor at this time, I don’t know if you know him, Mr Bardo, in N. ?
I.B. : No.
Mr B. : He told me it’s not always a good thing to do to study, to study oneself .
I.B. : To divulge ?
Mr B. : To study oneself.
I.B. : Ah, to study oneself.
Mr B. : It’s not always good to study oneself, but there is nothing better.
I.B. : Well, I do not think it’s a bad thing.
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes madam… my « One » (inaudible)
I.B. : And have you noticed some changing with the pronouns since you have been talking about them ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes, madam.
I.B. : In good or in bad ?
Mr B. : In good, in good.
I.B. : So it’s good for you to talk about them ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes madam… My « One » spends his time insulting me.
I.B. : And you don’t insult him ?
Mr B : No, madam, no, madam.
I.B. : So the more you speak about them, the less they have power over you ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes madam.
- B. : So it’s good for you to talk about them?
Mr B. : For a while, my « One » wanted to live alone, without anybody without any other pronoun, without body (inaudible) . If he had no body, my « One » could not live ?
I.B. : Well, no.
Mr B. : My « One » does not want to admit it.
I.B. : You said before that the most of people act according to their pronouns and they are against the body ?
Mr B. : Yes, they were against the body, but now, it may change, they may gonna become for the body, there is some research about this, some people study it.
I.B. :And you said it depends on the countries ?
Mr B. : It depends on the countries. Some countries have done it, some others have not. Here, we are talking about international affairs, I stop here.
I.B. : Yes, but it’s interesting.
Mr B. : Yes, but international, as soon as one talks about a country, one owes something to this country.
I.B. : One owes ?
Mr B. : When one speaks about the country, one owes that country.
I.B. : Speach is made of words, words are sounds, they are symbols which represent things, but they don’t have a proper existence. You think the words have their own existence ?
Mr B. : Yes, but in some countries, as soon as you speak about them, you are condemned to death.
I.B. : Hmmm. You think so ?
Mr B. : Yes… the least debt, some countries , for the least debt, they kill people.
I.B. : And, how can they kill ?
Mr B. : Ah, well, … (inaudible)
I.B. : But how can they know that one speaks about them ?
Mr B. : Nearly everything is known. And there are spies, masculine, feminine, there are double agents, etc… some countries don’t want people speak about their gods.
I.B. : About their gods ? You think it’s because their gods have to blame themselves for something ?
Mr B. : No, no, no, but you have to respect their gods at more than hundred per cent.
I.B. : Yes,, but you can speak about something and respect it at the same time, no ?
Mr B. : In some countries, as soon as you speak about their gods, you are condemned to death.
I.B. : In countries where they have a state religion, for example ?
Mr B. : Yes, but there is not only one god on the earth.
Louis : I’m coming to see if you have a cigarette… thanks… To go to Tours, from here, where shall I go ?
I.B. : You go and ask…. So , hold on a minute… You said everything is known.
Mr B. : Yes… No, everything is not known but, everything we say, everything we think, everything we write is known.
I.B. : Well, not what you think.
Mr B. : I’m sure of it, madam. I’m sure.
I.B. : Who knows ?
Mr B. : Well, I don’t know … some eavesdrop, some, etc… some earn their money in squealing.
I.B. : Yes, but for instance…
Mr B. : It’s like what you are writing now, may be some people will read it without telling you.
I.B. : They would not understand, I don’t think they would understand. But, for instance, what I think, you can’t know it, nor the people around.
Mr B. : Yes, but with machines, they can know what you think or with (inaudible)
I.B. : With… machines ? Heu …
Mr B. : Well, we stop here, if you want.
I.B. : As you like, sir.
Mr B. : We shall speak again about our differences ?
I.B. :You mean we do not agree all the time on those subjects ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, yes, madam.
I.B. : I don’t think it’s a problem. I can have an opinion, and you have the right to have your own.
Mr B. : but mental patients have no right, but the staff has rights. The staff has rights on the patients, and the patients have no right on the staff.
I.B. : Let’s imagine that tomorrow the hospital would be destroyed, and that everything here would not exist anymore. You would still be Mr B, and I would still be I.B.
Mr B. : Well, they would take me to another hospital.
I.B. : And if the people who know you are hospitalized had disappeared ?
Mr B. : Well, I would be sent to another hospital.
I.B. : And you, do you like being at the hospital ?
Mr B. : It’s not for fun, but anyway, I need to be in a hospital. I cannot be anywhere else.
I.B. : If you could choose ?
Mr B. : Between going out and remain here ?
I.B. : Yes ?
Mr B. : Oh, well, remain here.
- B. : You would prefer to remain here ?
Mr B. : I cannot take care of myself, I don’t know how to cook, I don’t know how to take care of a house, I do not know to take care of my money. I am not allowed to get married. I’m not good at becoming a husband.
I.B. : You can get married as you are divorced.
Mr B. : It’s a law which made us divorce, and I’m not allowed to get married. I’m a mental patient, or crazy, I don’t know. They made a law saying all the people who were married with crazy people or mental patients had the right to divorce, and some licked their ass more and they said : « They must be obliged to divorce ». It’s a law which was made ten or fifteen years ago. Before, people who were married with crazy people had no right to get divorced.
I.B. : I do not like the word « crazy ». It does not mean much to me.
Mr B. : Before they used to say « crazy ». Now they say « mental patient », may be ?
I.B. : You know, if one would take people at random among the population, and if doctors would examine them, may be the three quarters would be declared « mental patients », if you see what I mean ?
Mr B. : Yes, madam, I see very well.
I.B. : then, it would not mean much. What I mean is that here, you are hospitalized, you have am many rights as anybody else. If there is anything you don’t like, you have the right to say it.
Mr B. : Yes, I can say it in French, say it correctly, but sometimes I get on my nerves, I am impatient when I get up in the morning, some call me « B. ». For the doctor X, it may be a joke, but to me, it was nasty. In the old days, it used to make me laugh, but now, I do not laugh anymore. Well, here we are. If you agree, we stop here.
I.B. : As you like, sir. I am glad that the pronouns loose strength is one talks about them.
Mr B. : Yes, ma’am, they are scared. My « One » is unconscious.
I.B. : Frankly, you are not lucky with your « One ».
Mr B. :Yes, ma’am, yes madam, he is not updated.
I.B. : And could not you make him sleep ?
Mr B. : Ah, no, he sleeps twice more, twice more.
I.B. : He sleeps more than you ?
Mr B. :Yes, madam, yes madam.
I.B. : Then, when he sleeps, he does not annoy you ?
Mr B. : Yes, he does not annoy me, but I cannot do anything to get him, he sleeps twice more , twice more than I.
I.B. : In intensity or in time ?
Mr B. : In intensity.
Arrival of the nurse coming for the night.
Mr B. : Well, it’s ten p.m., I am not gonna hold you up.
I.B. : Good evening, and see you tomorrow, sir, have a good night.
During the other talks of the following days, Mr B explained me the role of each pronoun and gave me the keys of his code. Sometimes later, I proposed a staff meeting on Mr B, as it was the use : once a month, the record of a patient was studied in a meeting. I drew a map of the role of each pronoun, hoping it would allow the people to understand him better and that he would be better taken care of.
My briefing provoked among some an astonishment mixed with scepticism, and among the most, indifference. The psychiatrist was reticent, insisting on the fact it could be dangerous to « comfort the patients’ delirium. » Just one supervisor said Mr B gave me a testimony of trust.
Those two hours did not lead to any modification for the cares of Mr B. I had been too naïve to believe that the use of this kind of meetings was to make the patients’ condition better; the facts demonstrated nothing as such happened.
Some months later, Mr B died without any indication could have been foreseen. During that night, he had got up at 4 a.m. to go to the toilets, then had gone back to bed and fallen asleep. During the watch at 6 a.m., the nurse found him dead.
Original French version: Monsieur B.