The Good Soldier Svejk Chapter 4.

Schweik Is Ejected from the Lunatic Asylum.

When Schweik later on described life in the lunatic asylum, he did so in terms of exceptional eulogy : "I’m blowed if I can make out why lunatics kick up such a fuss about being kept there. They can crawl about stark naked on the floor, or caterwaul like jackals, or rave and bite. If you was to do anything like that in the open street, it’d make people stare, but in the asylum it’s just taken as a matter of course. Why, the amount of liberty there is something that even the socialists have never dreamed of. The inmates can pass themselves off as God Almighty or the Virgin Mary or the Pope or the King of England or our Em-

peror or St. Vaclav, although the one who did him was properly stripped and tied up in solitary confinement. There was a chap there who kept thinking that he was an archbishop, but he did nothing but guzzle. And then there was another who said he was St. Cyril and St. Methodus, just so that he could get double helpings of grub. One fellow was in the family way and invited everyone to the christening. There were lots of chess players, politicians, fishermen and scouts, stamp collectors and photographers and painters there. They used to keep one man always in a strait-waistcoat, to stop him from calculating when the end of the world was coming. Everybody can say what he likes there, the first thing that comes into his head, just like in parliament. The noisiest of the lot was a chap who said he was the sixteenth volume of the encyclopaedia and asked everybody to open him and find an article on sewing machines or else he’d be done for. He wouldn’t shut up until they shoved him into a strait-waistcoat. I tell you, the life there was a fair treat. You can bawl, or yelp, or sing, or blub, or moo, or boo, or jump, say your prayers or turn somersaults, or walk on all fours, or hop about on one foot, or run round in a circle, or dance, or skip, or squat on your haunches all day long, and climb up the walls. Nobody comes up to you and says : ’You mustn’t do this, you mustn’t do that, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, call yourself civilized?’ I liked being in the asylum, I can tell you, and while I was there I had the time of my life."

And, in good sooth, the mere welcome which awaited Schweik in the asylum, when they took him there from the central criminal court for observation, far exceeded anything he had expected. First of all they stripped him naked, then they gave him a sort of dressing gown and took him to have a bath, catching hold of him familiarly by the arm, during which process one of the keepers entertained him by narrating anecdotes about Jews. In the bathroom they immersed him in a tub of warm water and then pulled him out and placed him under a cold douche. They repeated this three times and then asked him whether he liked it. Schweik said that it was better than the public baths near the Charles Bridge and that he was very fond of bathing. "If you’ll

only just clip my nails and hair, I’ll be as happy as can be," he added, smiling affably.

They complied with this request and when they had thoroughly rubbed him down with a sponge, they wrapped him up in a sheet and carried him off into ward No. I to bed, where they laid him down, covered him over with a quilt, and told him to go to sleep.

Schweik still tells the story with delight : "Just imagine, they carried me, actually carried me along. It was a fair treat for me."

And so he blissfully fell asleep on the bed. Then they woke him up to give him a basin of milk and a roll. The roll was already cut up into little pieces and while one of the keepers held Schweik’s hands, the other dipped the bits of roll into milk and fed him as poultry is fed with clots of dough for fattening. After he had gone to sleep again, they woke him up and took him to the observation ward where Schweik, standing stark naked before two doctors, was reminded of the glorious time when he joined the army. Almost involuntarily he let fall the word :


"What’s that you’re saying?" remarked one of the doctors. "Take five paces forward and five paces to the rear."

Schweik took ten paces.

"I told you," said the doctor, "to take five."

"A few paces more or less don’t matter to me," said Schweik.

Thereupon the doctors ordered him to sit on a chair and one of them tapped him on the knee. He then told the other one that the reflexes were quite normal, whereat the other wagged his head and he in his turn began to tap Schweik on the knee, while the first one lifted Schweik’s eyelids and examined his pupils. Then they went off to a table and bandied some Latin phrases.

"Can you sing?" one of them asked Schweik. "Couldn’t you sing us a song?"

"Why, with pleasure, gentlemen," replied Schweik. "I’m afraid I haven’t got much of a voice or what you’d call an ear for music, but I’ll do what I can to please you, if you want a little amusement."


And he struck up :

"O the monk in the armchair yonder, In his hand he bows his head, And upon his pallid visage, Two bitter, glowing tears are shed.

"That’s all I know," continued Schweik, "but if you like I’ll sing you this :

"My heart is brimming o’er with sadness, My bosom surges with despair, Mutely I sit and afar I gaze: My yearning’s afar, it is there, it is there.

"And that’s all I know of that one, too," sighed Schweik. "But besides that I know the first verse of ’Where Is My Home?’ and ’General Windischgratz and All His Commanders Started the Battle at the Break of Day’ and a few of the old popular favourites like ’Lord Preserve Us’ and ’Hail We Greet Thee with Thousand Greetings’. . ."

The two doctors looked at each other and one of them asked Schweik :

"Has the state of your mind ever been examined?"

"In the army," replied Schweik solemnly and proudly, "the military doctors officially reported me as feeble-minded."

"It strikes me that you’re a malingerer," shouted one of the doctors.

"Me, gentleman?" said Schweik deprecatingly. "No, I’m no malingerer, I’m feeble-minded, fair and square. You ask them in the orderly room of the 91st regiment or at the reserve headquarters in Karlin."

The elder of the two doctors waved his hand with a gesture of despair and pointing to Schweik said to the keepers : "Let this man have his clothes again and put him into Section 3 in the first passage. Then one of you can come back and take all his papers into the office. And tell them there to settle it quickly, because we don’t want to have him on our hands for long."

The doctors cast another crushing glance at Schweik, who deferentially retreated backward to the door, bowing with unction the while. From the moment when the keepers received orders to return Schweik’s clothes to him, they no longer showed the slightest concern for him. They told him to get dressed and one of them took him to Ward No. 3 where, for the few days it took to complete his written ejection in the office, he had an opportunity of carrying on his agreeable observations. The disappointed doctors reported that he was "a malingerer of weak intellect," and as they discharged him before lunch, it caused quite a little scene. Schweik declared that a man cannot be ejected from a lunatic asylum without having been given his lunch first. This disorderly behaviour was stopped by a police officer who had been summoned by the asylum porter and who conveyed Schweik to the commissariat of police.