He did much of the work himself but also employed a local family. In , running low on funds for the project, he opened a practice in Rome and from then onward divided his time between Rome and Capri. It might even be that he has introduced some fiction here and there for the sake of the story.
There are also strange omissions for an autobiography such as any mention of his marriages and children. He was certainly aware of his own worth as a person, and although he must have been an entertaining dinner companion, I wonder whether one might have wearied of him a little towards the end of the evening.
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I have no further use for it. I would say there is material enough for a dozen or more different movies or just one epic movie like "Doctor Zhivago" in this book, except for the absence of a prominent love story. No synopsis or review of the story can do more than spoil the plot and surprise ending of this amazing story which Axel relates about conducting an eighteen-year-old Swedish man home from San Remo.
Dying of consumption, his mother was called from Sweden to accompany the doctor and her son. When they arrived in Basel, Switzerland, the mother had a heart attack which nearly killed her and necessitated that Axel put himself and the dying son up in a fancy hotel, and wait for the mother's recovery.
The Story of San Michele | Daunt Books
He does a quick embalming based on his assisting at one while in medical school because it is much cheaper and he is footing the bill for the embalming. Then he tries to get the body onto the train and the train master insists that a Leichenbegleiter Corpse companion is necessary to accompany the body, someone who will ride in a sealed compartment with the coffin all the way to the ferry to Sweden. What happens next is the meat of comedy, tragedy, farce, and human folly all rolled into one.
Just as the train car is about to be shuttled to the side track because of a lack of a companion, one appears from nowhere, a dwarf who is a professional Leichenbegleiter.
Axel is relieved but soon finds out that this dwarf is here to be companion to a Russian general who had died and is being sent to the same port to board a ferry to Russia. After some amazing maneuvering, Axel gets the station master to sunder the bureaucratic morass of regulations and allow the dwarf to companion two corpses.
If you have guessed how this tale might end up, it is probably because someone has already taken Axel's suggestion and written a story based on the plot of this true story as he experienced it. Will the boy's mother survive and want to see her son's body? Will she be shocked when Axel opens the coffin for her? Will his makeshift, home-brewed embalming preserve the boy's body? Truth is often stranger than fiction, and this story proves the old adage.
Here's a short piece of the amazing story, in which the dachshund puppy which Axel bought as his own companion on the lugubrious journey, Waldmann, plays an important part. He accepted my offer at once. The station master said it was an unprecedented case, it raised a delicate point of law, he felt sure it was "verboten" for two corpses to travel with one Leichenbegleiter between them.
He must consult the Kaiserliche Oberliche Eisenbahn Amt Direktion Bureau, it would take at least a week to get an answer. It was Waldmann who saved the situation. Several times during our discussions I had noticed a friendly glance from the station master's gold-rimmed spectacles in the direction of the puppy and several times he had stretched his enormous hand for a gentle stroke on Waldmann's long, silky ears.
I decided on a last desperate attempt to move his heart.
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Without saying a word I deposited Waldmann on his lap. As the puppy licked him all over the face and started pulling at his porcupine moustaches, his harsh features softened gradually into a broad, honest smile at our helplessness. Five minutes later the hunchback had signed a dozen documents as the Leichenbegleiter of the two coffins, and I with Waldmann and my Gladstone bag was flung into a crowded second-class compartment as the train was starting.
Of course, Waldmann was house-broken, but he was not permitted in second-class, and soon both Axel and his traveling companion were relegated to the same space as the corpse companion and the two corpses, and the five of them traveled to the port together, keeping each other company as much as possible in the stuffy railroad car, during which much is revealed to Axel about the Russian general and his embalming.
Axel even got a much-needed shave from the dwarf, who had shaved many corpses before and "never heard a word of complaint. Axel was forced into a duel by Vicomte Maurice after Axel saved a dog from being further brutalized by the Vicomte. Axel couldn't shoot, had never shot a gun, and didn't plan to pull the trigger at all, hoping the Vicomte would miss as often happened in those days.
His gun went off much to his surprise and mortally wounded the Vicomte. Axel was later surprised to find that a bullet had gone through his own hat, barely missing his head, luck ever on Axel's side. When Rosalie come to see him with his breakfast, he indicated he was going out in a half hour and this conversation ensued:.
It cannot be made by a moth, the whole house is stinking with naphthaline ever since Mamsell Agata came. Can it be a rat? Mamsell Agata's room is full of rats, Mamsell Agata likes rats. Axel Munthe always kept hope and small wooden horses in his medicine bag. Hope was what he gave those patients with wretched doctors who had taken all hope away from them, making it likely that they will die shortly of the fear imbued in them by their own well-meaning doctors.
The wooden horses were toys to give to children which had never had a toy or a small thing of their own to play with. It was a child's token of hope and love. In one case he brought a still born baby boy to life using his own breath and gave him up for adoption. Three years later he rescued the boy from an abysmal life in a shoemaker's shop, looking like a skeleton, unkempt, barely alive. He became Axel's mascot for Axel says he never slept so well as after he took a look at the little boy asleep in his cot before going to bed.
Later Rosalie, his housekeeper, and an elegant lady who never had a child of her own became little John's daily caregivers. John loved riding in the lady's carriage, and she soon took to carrying him upstairs and bathing him and seeing him to bed each day. After John died quite young, Axel embalmed the body and gave him to the lady to bury in the parish churchyard near her home in Kent, England.
This time Axel didn't bother to ask permission, suggesting she place the body in its sealed coffin on her yacht and sail away immediately. Hope and toys kept little John alive for years longer than his lugubrious existence with the shoemaker would have. Such was the luster that surrounded the name of Professor Charcot that some of its light reflected itself even upon the smallest satellites around him.
English people seemed to believe that their own doctors knew less about nervous diseases than their French colleagues.
ISBN 13: 9780719509834
They may have been right or wrong in this, but it was good luck for me in any case. I was even called to London for a consultation just then. No wonder I was pleased and determined to do my best. I did not know the patient but I had been exceptionally lucky with another member of her family which, no doubt, was the cause of my being summoned to her. It was a bad case, a desperate case according to my two English colleagues, who stood by the bedside watching me with gloomy faces while I examined their patient. Their pessimism had infected the whole house, the patient's will to recover was paralyzed by despondency and fear of death.
It is very probable that my two colleagues knew their pathology far better than I. But I knew something they evidently did not know: that there is no drug as powerful as hope, that the slightest sign of pessimism in the face or words of a doctor can cost his patient his life. Without entering into medical details it is enough to say that as a result of my examination I was convinced that her gravest symptoms derived from nervous disorders and mental apathy. My two colleagues watched me with a shrug of their broad shoulders while I laid my hand on her forehead and said in a calm voice that she needed no morphia for the night.
She would sleep well anyhow, she would feel much better in the morning, she would be out of danger before I left London the following day. A few minutes later she was fast asleep, during the night the temperature dropped almost too rapidly to my taste, the pulse steadied itself, in the morning she smiled at me and said she felt much better. Her mother implored me to remain a day longer in London, to see her sister-in-law, they were all very worried about her.
The colonel, her husband; wanted her to consult a nerve specialist, she herself had tried in vain to make her see Doctor Phillips, she felt sure she would be all right if she only had a child. Unfortunately she had an inexplicable dislike of doctors, and would certainly refuse to consult me, but it might be arranged that I should sit next her at dinner so as at least to form an opinion of her case.
May be Charcot could do something for her? Perhaps you have guessed that what Munthe did for her was to allow her to befriend the young boy, John, take him on carriage rides, give him toys, and fill the void in her own life, truly a masterful cure administered by a student of Charcot's.
A Dickens story lived out and related by Axel Munthe. There are many great stories in this book, but my favorite is the staging of Hamlet in Lund, Sweden by a friend of Axel's, his old pal from the university in Upsala, Erik Carolus Malmborg, whose presence prompted him to attend the production. Axel thought Erik was destined to become a priest back then, but here he was appearing in the production of Shakespeare's Hamlet in the very town in Sweden that Axel was visiting at the time.
The production was, however, like many of Axel's patients when he was called to them, on its death bed. The last series of performances had been disastrous and had left Erik and his traveling theater company broke. Well, here's the rest of the story. I sent my card to his room, he came like a shot overjoyed to see me after a lapse of so many years. My friend told me a distressing story. But how could he alone carry the immense burden of the five-act tragedy on his shoulders! All the tickets for the performance tonight were sold out, if they should have to return the money, complete collapse was inevitable.
Perhaps I could lend him two hundred kronor for old friendship's sake? I rose to the occasion. I summoned a meeting of the leading stars of the company, instilled new blood into their dejected hearts with several bottles of Swedish punch, curtailed ruthlessly the whole scene with the actors, the scene with the grave-diggers, the killing of Polonius,. It was a memorable evening in the theatrical annals of Lund. Punctually at eight the curtain rose over the royal palace of Elsinore, as the crow flies not an hour's distance from where we were.
The crowded house chiefly composed of boisterous undergraduates from the University proved less emotional than we had expected. The entrance of the Prince of Denmark passed off almost unnoticed, even his famous "To be or not to be" missed fire. The king limped painfully across the stage and sank down with a loud groan on his throne. Ophelia's cold had assumed terrific proportions. It was evident that Polonius could not see straight. It was the Ghost that saved the situation. The Ghost was I. As I advanced in ghost-like fashion on the moonlit ramparts of the castle of Elsinore, carefully groping my way over the huge packing-cases which formed its very backbone, the whole fabric suddenly collapsed and I was precipitated up to the armpits in one of the packing-cases.
What was a ghost expected to do in similar circumstances? Should I duck my head and disappear altogether in the packing-case or should I remain as I was, awaiting further events? It was a nice question to settle! A third alternative was suggested to me by Hamlet himself in a hoarse whisper: why the devil didn't I climb out of the infernal box?
This was, however, beyond my power, my legs being entangled in coils of rope and all sorts of paraphernalia of stage craft. Rightly or wrongly I decided to remain where I was, ready for all emergency. My unexpected disappearance in the packing-case had been very sympathetically received by the audience, but it was nothing compared to the success when, with only my head popping out from the packing-case, I began again in a lugubrious voice my interrupted recital to Hamlet.
The applause became so frenetic that I had to acknowledge them with a friendly wave of my hand, I could not bow in the delicate position I was. This made them completely wild with delight, the applause never ceased till the end. When the curtain fell over the last act I appeared with the leading stars of the company to bow to the audience. They kept on shouting: "The Ghost!
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