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One mans struggle to rescusitate his never-existing love.
Have you ever trained basic CPR? Maybe some first aid class in High School or Boy Scouts or wherever? Then, if you live in Europe or North America there is a very large chance that you have been part of the desperate attempt to resusitate a woman who died over a hundred years ago.
The Beginning and the End
In the 1950’s an american doctor named Peter Safar wanted to create a new training method for CPR that would more effectively spread the knowledge of the effective and lifesaving new procedure. He thought that the best method to learn it was to train with a life sized doll. A smart idea since the best way of learning is to combine plain text knowledge and facts with a some physical action and training.
Via a norweigian collegue he got in contact with a toymaker in the norweigian town of Stavanger, Asmund S. Laerdal, who took on the task of producing a life like first aid doll. The biggest problem in his case was the design of the face...
The birth of L’Inconnue de la Seine
Go back a few years, 50 years to be exact. Paris in the year 1900 was a huge town, filled with people. Some famous, some who lived and died in obscurity. At the time the suicide rates where still high (not as high as in the romantic era of ”The suffering of young Walter” of which I thought I should write another time) and the amount of people found every year floating in the river Seine was high. Most of the time people came by the morgue to see if a missing relative had turned up and so many got claimed by their families. Sometimes a corpse could lay there for months without anyone claiming it.
At that point the morticians made a mold of the face and placed it in a display monter so that people could come and see if there was anyone they recognized.
In the year 1900, some claim it was spring time after the first thawing of snow in the mountains and highlands some say it was in the raining season of autumn, they found a young girl floating face down in the river. She was beyond any mortal help and the doctors could see that she must have been around the age of 20, unharmed - which indicated she took her own life - and dressed in fine but common clothing. The river Seine had claimed another of its own; the lonely, the desperate and the depressed.
Assuming that this young girl must soon be claimed by worrying relatives they first hesitated to make a death mask but as the procedure was the standard they still did and placed her mask in the back of the display monter. Days came and went, weeks and then months and this pretty young girl had yet to be claimed. Finally the city of Paris paid for her burial, she had now been dubbed "L’Inconnue de la Seine" - "The unknown one from the Seine", and her mask placed in the front window where passers-by could see this young lonely womans face. Some say that it also was a face of some discomfort to those that saw it. It has a serene, calm and otherworldy feature as if she was perfectly calm when the waters took her, a small smile resting on her lips and eyes closed softly. As if she was enjoying a bit of sun outdoors on a sunny summer sunday afternoon and not at all like the rest of the suicides with cramped up features and firm jaws.
The actions of Asmund S. Laerdal
Leardal is said to have been interested in rescucitation after his son Tore almost drowned a warm summers day at the beach. But this is just ignoring the truth for the most probable excuse. One could assume that he was a mechanomancer but Leardal was interested in toys made of plastic, not wires and steam engines.
Leardal, like all artists at the time - he had interests in sculpting - went to Paris, the holy Mecca of the aesthetic clique of Europe. He did what all students did; "studied", drank immense amounts of wine and escorted various prostitutes home. It was during one of his nightly studies of the cheaper of the french wines that he walked by the Paris Morgue. He had struck out at his attempts to sway a young (non professional) woman and was on his way to one of the more seedy streets of Paris when he saw her.
afterwards he could have sworn that her eyes had been open, clear blue surrounded by the white plaster of her face in the illuminated window.
From that moment on he was hooked - every night by will or by accident he found himself staring into her calm and serene face. Every night he stood there dreaming of whom she might have been - dreaming of how their lives together would have played out if they had met.
Perhaps his mind cracked out in the Parisian summer night, maybe he drank or smoked too much opium. Maybe he was weak minded from the beginning and this was the last straw but there he was under the start-lit night talking to this young woman.
To him she wispered her secrets, she told him her hearts desires and he in turn told her his, they talked and talked. They professed their love for the other - they laughed, cried and smiled.
But the living and the dead are forever seperated and this is one of the few laws that no man can bend - and although he was ready to die for them to be together, she made him promise not. She said that death was not a state of existence worth choosing and that her mistake was nothing admirable.
It was this that made him so obsessed, it was this that made him work as an inventor instead of a sculptor, it was this that made him marry his wife a woman of rich heritage unlike his poor background.
It was this that made him try to drown his son on that summer day at the beach. It was this that made him befriend dr Safar, a boorish and annoying man.
It was this that made him go back to Paris over and over. It was this that made him talk out to the night air and lok at his wife with hatred.
It was this that made his wife die an early death, she only a means to an end and as he had her money she was only useful as an expirment - and didn't it make people like him?
"Poor man, what horrid irony - he created the Resusci-anne and here his wife drown in the Seine on a trip"
They say he died 1981, but people talk. They say they locked "L’Inconnue de la Seine's" death mask for preservation reasons. They say the young girls dying of drowning are mere suicides - sad little mistakes in a young life.
But people talk so much dont they?
Every year thousands, millions try to rescue a young girl from Paris. Every year millions of gulps of life air is pumped into her lungs. Every year thousands drag her lifeless body up from the bottom of a pool. Every year a young blond girl is lost in Paris, found floating in the Seine with a strange serene smile and calmly closed eyes.
Link to a picture of Leardal and his love at a demonstration;
(this text is not copyright anyone!)
rekyl | profile | Feb 08, 06 | 1:55 pm