The autobiographical book "Tokfursten" (The King of Fools) by Elgard Jonsson that was transformed into an opera by Carl Unander-Scharin and Nils Spangenberg at the International Vadstena Academy in 1996.To open up a door for someone
I do not claim that this description of seven years in a madhouse should be conceived and judged as true. When you are mad you are not judicious but entirely absorbed by your own notions of "the other side". From this distorted view of the world it is though a "true depiction".To be schizophrenic is to hate the human beings for their mere existence and it is the great enviousness to see them move about in their country. In his block of ice the fool carefully notes "all hostile actions that the human beings direct towards him of all people", and in the dark room of revenge grows a ruler of the world. Lodge appeal against the boredom he suffers from through no fault of his own in ice of waiting, spits at his meaninglessness and curses his starvation of human warmth. Disgusted by his smell of shame - his incapability to be a human being is mourned in vain. He is seeking the faults, constantly finding that the sense of being unworthy is well deserved. In rage the soil of his soul is hurled out among the humans who are found to be "just as bad".
The schizophrenic submission of evidence always starts from the assumption "being bad - stained by guilt - a persona non grata". This is constantly confirmed by a partial burden of proof.Could it be that "the crime" was born in one's mother's arms? In the unspoken: "You weigh my breast down!" Could it be that the good milk and the sweet honey are transformed into acid and gall. Is it as simple as such that this denial of life turns human children into mad people?There is one truth that we can never come round: Schizophrenia is one big powerless failure to exist as a human being. A person can not go on living in this burning inferno but tries to get away, escape - into himself. The flame of life is gradually turned down and flickers out - a phantasy world about living is built up that in time merges into empty nothingness.
According to my way of seeing it, it is all about three realities. One reality where you find "the people outside". The second is the phantasy dream of the in between world where the schizophrenic person lets his false self be swallowed up by darkness. In the third reality lingers the genuine self, that has been denied its legitimate existence. It is right there that the light, the possibilities and the happy laughter sleep their night.
I will briefly tell you the previous history of my schizophrenic dilemma: The experience of denial was total and it became my mother's milk from the first drop till the last. By the age of four mother disappeared. She took all my brothers and sisters with her and left me. The four year old child took that as a confirmation of his badness. Then the flame of life was turned down slowly, slowly.Short moments of unreality were followed by longer and longer visits in the in-between world. By the age of sixteen came the actual schizophrenic collapse that has been formed by hard work into an awakening of possibilities and laughter.I left the world and together with my father I was isolated in the forest under a period of one year. After six months it happened:Everything cried out. I Was sitting on the floor, beating my head against the wall. There was an explosion, the soul, the body. Blood, the guts, yes, everything was gushing out on to the walls and in the ceiling.One second. Then it became so remarkably quiet. No pain, no tears - nothing.
I have written this book because I want to increase the understanding of an evidently mysterious illness. I want to show that it is possible to walk out from the darkness and in to reality. It is my great hope that young people who have newly fallen ill will be spared my impossible years and instead will be given a chance to regain their rightful place among the human beings.I am aware of the fact that my bitterness and despair is obvious in this book, but I ask of all those who have not had "my years" to be patient with my feelings. I also don't think that they have the same "disciplines" now as they had then in the mental hospitals.
In my fair tale many doors have been opened for me so I am happy hoping that I might be able to open a door for someone else.
Elgard Jonsson, Uppsala, Sweden, April 1985
Elgard Jonsson´s breakdown happened in the summer of 1967. Elgard went to the mental hospital to see "God the Father" (the medical superintendent) hoping that he would "swing his magic wand" and cure him. In the winter 1973 the almoner trainee Barbro Sandin was moved by seeing this young man who had turned so very old and who was diagnosed to suffer from incurable schizophrenia. She decided to try to reach him. In Elgard´s words "God the Mother - Barbro Sandin - appeared under my crazy firmament telling a saga of truth. After many years of hard work I was free from my crazy sky".
Barbro Sandin is to day one of the prominent figures in the mental health care. With her long experience as a psychotherapist she is also an instructor, an author and a source of inspiration for many institutions. She has won an international reputation as well. Also Elgard Jonsson has become a psychotherapist! "A joy to be able to lit the light for others who have gone astray!".
Act I : In the outskirts of the forest of red and pink
1: At the destinationA torn and tormented boy comes to the hospital in a daze. He is in desperate need of help. He meets Anton Rallare (Anton the Navvy - an old bear whose claws have been cut long time ago) and Tjyv-Elin (Elin the Thief - mostly boiling with anger, but in between the sharp words Truth sometimes sticks up its unpleasant face Look! Isn't it like hell! What a carcass, a lunatic they've found! - I'm not an idiot! - Welcome! Hurl him into the factory , grind him to minced meat. Spit and puke. The bastards. Here no one can talk, or even piss, straight! Get out and get lost! Get yourself a fiancée. Suck yourself stuck fast to her breast! Here is nothing but idiots! - But I have come to meet God. To be cured!)
2: Show for the curious
3a: The BeatlesduetHurtige Hugo (Hearty Hugo - jaded member of the nursing staff who's keys seem like a rattlesnake in his fingers) mocks him because of his long hair and sees to it that he who is to become Tokfursten (the King of Fools) is dressed in the clothes of the hospital. His mild protest is accompanied by his inner scornful voices "Håniolerna" (approx. "the Scornlets") that always punish every human action. Tjyv-Elin remarks: There you are! A dressed up idiot! Why don't they take care of the children?! Well, coffee-time again...
3b: At Napoleon'sFor the first time Tokfursten meets Napoleon ( - assistant physician whose guiding star is the medical Bible of God the Father, the medical superintendent. She comforts the deepest human distress through mumbling chemical charms) Their first talk is held on two levels: Napoleon's questions get both "expected" and "true" answers. The true answers are so incomprehensible and irrelevant that Napoleon doesn't hear them. The expected ones on the contrary makes it possible for Napoleon to start a medical-biological diagnosis. Sit down! How are you? Let's see... You suffer from mental disturbance, is that right? - I have black flakes that fall from heaven. I can't read any longer. - Well I suppose reading is nice, but it makes one think too much! Occupational therapy will cure you from too many thoughts! You have hallucinations, don't you?-Walls fall over me, the ventilators whisper, the watertap is singing, ...-Hallucinations! - Falling heavens fast put me to sleep when the lust for life gets too strong! When can I meet God the Father? -Later. Later. What do they whisper?
3c: The Bird of FireThe Bird of Fire sings her tempting song from far within the Forest of Red and Pink. Come to us! Here peace and coolness can be found.
4: The day-roomWe meet Blomman (the Flower - let down again and again he greedily guards his small room of life) Drink my flower, how are you to day? Drink my friend, grow and become smaller... - Why are you talking to a flower? -Do you think I'm crazy or something!? The flower is ill, it shall be cured. I know what they do, the staffpersons....,Flickan med Spindeln (the Girl with the Spider - around her ugliness she has weaved a web that no one can get through.) Where is it? Take it away! No, it´s in my hair! It doesn't want me, you don't want me!, Tjyv-Elin -Get out of here, you damned sweat-doughnut! Spit and scorn and hell! Here is nothing but idiots and corpses! -But you're here yourself! How long have you been here? How long can you be here? How long will we be here?! - Pledge for the bottles, bottles for the pledge, plottles for the...and Anton Rallare (Many trees stand in the forest, let the big axe go, here will the railway pass, the trees will mother and father have...)When the King of Fools wants to have his toothpaste he is bullied by Hurtige Hugo. You're supposed to say please!
5a: Back at the Black General'sTalking to Napoleon this time leads to medication to redeem his unhappiness. -What do the voices say? - They are so many at a time!!! - With the right medicine you'll become calm! - I become calm. I become soft. I meet God. -On the long view!His world is warped and the "Hibernal-ensemble" is sung. A child is floating through timeless rooms...A room is floating through the bottle...A child is floating in the limpid liquid, where it is floating... It is floating a room through it all... On the long view!
5b: The beam of sunlight.Blomman continues his "Flower aria". You will never get well. You grow silent. Smaller and smaller...No way in. No way out... As an effect of his medication Tokfursten is burned by the sun. Under the influence of the drug Tokfursten sings the entire "true answer" in a "Drug-aria". -I have come to see God to become well. So that I do not smell, do not rot away. I have black flakes that fall from the sky. I have black skies that fall in flakes. Falling skies help me to sleep when the lust for life gets far too strong!
6: MoneyThe hierarchic structure within the walls of the hospital becomes clear to Tokfursten. Nevertheless he manages to get out 42 of his kronor (Swedish crowns) to go to a café. Some playful moments later Hurtige Hugo locks him away because he, provoked to do so, has "protested against the medication". -What kind of a queue is this? Order! Calm down! Twenty-five kronor to you and twenty-five to you. Why do you need money? To buy mazarin cakes? Sign here! Sign there! (receiving a note from Tokfursten with his money-request) What is this?! Forty-two kronor! Twenty-five is the correct sum! -But I didn't know.... I have never... -Mazarines make you ill! -Sorry... I didn't... know... - All right - for this once!// (Tjyv-Elin cries out) What's the matter? They are nothing but swines! I die now. Poison in my bottles. - We are off to buy Mazarines! - Look: my arm is dead already. And the heart. And the foot. It doesn't want to walk. -Like hell you're dying! Come along with us instead! -Murderers! - Quit simulating! Come on ! My treat! - Hey, let's take a cab! - Spit and scorn and hell!// -And where do you think you are going?! - We are going to buy Mazarines! - Oh, no! You are not going anywhere. You shall get your medicine. - But we would like to go and buy Mazarines! -You're going nowhere. What the hell!...What kind of a man are you? Come on, hit me! Are you afraid? Go for it! Do you think it will hurt? Don't be a wet! Queer! Show me you're a Man!// You come with me! - God the father? -Ha,ha! Nothing to be afraid of! Lock the door! Lock the door?
7: Meeting with "Håniolerna"Napoleon has a serious talk to Tokfursten who experiences his own inner voices more clearly than ever - Why are they locking the doors? Before, at the juvenile psychiatric clinic.. - At the juvenile psychiatric clinic! In the children's department! Among elfs and trolls... We treat grown up disorders here. Medicine will do the job. Then we will analyse you. Then it might be due time for a stroll in the garden, under surveillance at first. You will see that everything will be just fine with the right medication. (Håniolerna:) - Celebrate the summer with a song! Celebrate the joy of life!... - I can't! I can't!!! - Everything just fine, just fine, just fine....Napoleon confirms the diagnosis in his aria "Psychotic states of mind" - Psychotic states of mind are due to Biochemical changes in the brain. Mental activity disturbance. Hallucinations. The right medication... On a long view!
8: Occupational therapyAll evil will be cured with hard work. Tokfursten is one step ahead. Here is a good Man! Just look at those hands! Join him in the working team. Hard work will restrain you from thinking too much! // Everybody! Today we have a very important job! We are going to hammer on these clogs! - But what will happen to the foot... - We'll take that later on! Keep it up! - ...if the nails go right through? ( "working song": It will be a bloody job , but we'll come through! Bumps and Blisters, many a wound!)( they are interrupted by a whizzle) - Shit! We didn't make it before the round! Lazy bones! Morons! (anxious outbreak among the patients:)- f f f f father, God Father....
9: Gud Fader makes his entrance.At last Gud Fader (God the Father - the medical superintendent) descends to the kingdom of the dead. He turns out to be a grotesque stammering man. Tokfursten´s world capsizes into the Forest of Red and Pink. -Hohohow ddo you dddo! How are things with yyyou? - It feels like a dental anaesthetic! Please, tell me I'm going to be well! Please!!! -Well, we must bebebelieve so...You are on Hypofysin, Aspiratoril, Anticrackamin... Well, on a lolong vvview! A child is floating through timeless rooms...A room is floating through the bottle...A child is floating in the limpid liquid, where it is floating... It is floating a room through it all... - Come to us! Here peace and coolness can be found. -I hear voices... - Ah! Hahahahalucinations! - I can hear the ventilators whisper, I hear the walls hearing me... -The m m m most im im impo portant thing is to to to establish the right dose!Gud Fader does not find the suggested Electroshock treatment to be such a bad idea. So "as the patient does not have any objections", this is what he ordinates.Act II: The Stonedesert
1: The Bird of PainTokfursten sings - accompanied by a solo violin - about his seven year long walk in to the Stonedesert. -Seventhousand years. In the Forest of Red and Pink I am the King. I rule. In the Stoneforest that belongs to the Bird of Fire I am the King. In the Stonedesert the Bird of Pain belongs to me. To me and nobody else. Like a king I am disguised. I dress up shrouded in a mantle of haze from the soul.
2: The Rounds. The First Meeting.Above Tokfursten´s head his illness and chronical state are diagnosed. Gud fader is teaching undergraduates and other interested people. Napoleon elucidates and explains. - ... a ty-ty-typical case of chronic in-in-invalidity... Nothing can be d-d-done. In spite of, let me see..., in spite of forty-six E S T... (- That is: Electro Shock Treatment!) - ...and intense insulin therapy... psychopharmacological drugs, off course...(- Off course!)... he disappears further and further away. (Gud Fader reads, without stammering:) - "Suicidal at the time of enrolment seven years ago. Mutistic periods. Schizoid personality. Unsatisfactive primary relation. Cohabitating with the father when the disorder first appeared. No contact with the maternal parent." ( - Is the patient catatonical? -Catatonical? - I mean Hypokinaesthetic.) - Almost! (- Almost Catatonical.) An almoner trainee, Gud Moder (- God the Mother), is strongly moved seeing "the old man" who is really a young boy. She wants to talk to him. - May I speak to him ? Of course, but it will be difficult. - He is very young... -Young or old doesn't matter. When they are gone to a certain point there is no use in trying to reach them. -But how long...? - You must excuse us but the round is calling, and the coffee is getting cold...//.... - What would you say about my coming to see you tomorrow? Are you there? You are here. Is that you? This is me. I will return tomorrow.
3. Tjyv-Elin´s arioso in the day-room. The Second Meeting.Tjyv-Elin sings about the entry of medicine into the mental care. Are you still here? Isn't it like hell? You have become an old man. You sit there like a dead, smelling. I remember when that medicine came. The heart was torn out of the body and the fences demolished. But the cries remained. Tied up like dogs. Listen to them barking their lonely, grey cry of silence. Gud Moder comes to visit. She asks questions and gets the same answers that Napoleon once did not hear. These "true answers" have now become the audible language of Tokfursten. His schizophrenic images have been verbally transformed and have made him audibly incomprehensible. Gud Moder becomes aware that Tokfursten reacts to her interest and persistence. She promises to come back. - Do you have time?.... Do you know who I am?... The almoner trainee... Shall we go for a walk?... How long have you been here?... What did she look like, how was she dressed? What did she say when she left you?... I wonder... I want to know. I was thinking... What did her hair look like? You're so young. Too young to be marked by age... - I have black flakes that fall from the sky that tear apart the Bird of Pain's wings of gauze....... - Take care. I come back tomorrow.
4: Show for the curious (commentated)The fact that his whole existence is threatened forces Tokfursten to react violently. His companions of misery support him and display all their register of lunacy. - Damned bitch! - Afraid like a pig! - She came rushing along like a hurricane! Screaming her head off like a stuck rat! Like a stuck out running eye! Watched us as if we were some Sunday amusement! Konstnären Psyk -(the Artist Psyk) and his rhymed arioso gives a moment of warmth and secret understanding to the day-room. (Unrhymed nonsense translation!:)-Like a burning eye. She was in flames. She disappeared. She played leap-frog with a boar. That was all. She ran in the latrine. Back to the other personnel-swines! (Chorus:- That you fill with fads!) The world is full of imbeciles, of crazy feverbacilli, scraping and rubbing, squeaking and whining, barking and suffering... Carrying lunatics on litters, promising and raking in. What remains. A Christmas-boar. (That you fill with fads!)
5: Tune of turning back.Gud Moder continues to pester Tokfursten with questions. This time Tokfursten is prepared and answers in a normal language. He talks of voices. Gud Moder persists in talking about his childhood. Tokfursten retires into himself to get away. Gud Moder sings her aria of empathy. - Why! - I hear voices. In the wall. In the piping. - Your Mother... - They do not have voices, but they say things. - Yes, that sounds weird. Your Mother ... - They have no sounds. They give me orders. Sometimes I hear them say... - ...How was she dressed? What was her hair like? - They tell me to...I don't remember, don't remember... I have to, they say, don't remember! - What did her voice sound like? What was her hair like? - Don't remember...- Did she ever hold you? - Sometimes the voices say... I get an electric shock, a shock ,a shock... The world becomes calm. Everything is quiet. I am let alone. - I am talking about your mother. Do you understand? Did she ever hold you? - The voices say that my brain rots again and again.... - Your mother... - A fist full of freckles and fire... - ...she took off? - When the mouth rots the flakes become black... Do you remember that she left you? - ...and the voices say ... - Do you remember?(Remembering:) - Blood and guts are gushing out on the walls and in the ceiling... the skies... the wings... the mantles... ice-blue gauze... - Please! Don't drift away now! - Live... not.. the lust... summer... Stay with me. I want to talk to you!....... // (Aria of Empathy:) How can it be.... That a flame flickers and dies away?... How does a human being get black branches?... Can it be... that light lives in the shadow? ... Can it be?....Can burned branches... seek their light?... How can it be..... That a flame dies away?
6: The window is closed.Napoleon does not understand Tokfursten´s now outspoken language of pain. Instead she asks about the voices, talks of girls, about more Electroshock treatment -.When Tokfursten doesn't respond to this she turns on him and tells him that all treatment in the asylum is voluntary - so you can just pack your bags and leave. Now the Bird of Fire is singing loudly again.
7: The damned patience of Gud Moder. The peaceful rest of the stone is so comfortable.Gud Moder continues to search for the child within Tokfursten. As He now once again answers incomprehensibly (with what once was his inner true answers) Gud Moder Hears this in a to her new way. She translates and interprets the images, gives name to the shame and gives the shame legitimacy. Tokfursten does not want to do anything but sleep. Gud Moder leaves. The song of The Bird of Fire is strong and beautiful and Tokfursten cuts himself in the wrists.
8: Give the Ground to the ChildrenTo save Tokfursten from the isolation department that would have destroyed their work Gud Moder lies to the staff telling them that she is taking care of him on the orders of the superintendent. A choir begins to take form singing Give the Ground to the Children.... (At the last accord the dull grey and white scenery changes drastically. A well-laid colourful Christmas table is seen. From a crackling radio comes traditional Christmas music.)
9: Epilogue (Spoken)Tokfursten has been invited to Gud Moder to celebrate Christmas. The arrival makes him break out in a cold sweat. Shame reminds him of her existance and he tears down the Christmas-table... The expected betrayal of rejection fail to come; instead the little girl Lotta takes tokfursten´s hand. Hi, my name is Lotta, will you read something to me? - Later sweetie! - Can I have some candy then? - Not until after dinner. Come along!...(The table is demolished by Tokfursten)........- Stupid table! Stupid hand! - Stupid idiot!
Libretto Pärm 1996Synopsis engelska, 1 exemplarFörord till E Johnsons bok, engelska, 2 exemplarRollfigursbeskrivning och synopsis svenska, 2 exemplarProgramförslag konsert 20 maj 1996, 1 exemplarÖversikt tid i Vadstena medverkande, 4 exemplarLibretto från november 1995, 1 exemplarKopia av Elgard Jonssons roman, 2 exemplar