The Asylum of Dr. Caligari

Written by James Morrow
Review by Elicia Parkinson

It’s the beginning of the Great War, the year 1914, and American painter Francis Wyndham has just arrived at a European mental hospital, Traumenchen Asylum. Wyndham has been employed to offer art therapy to the patients under the hand of the eccentric and villainous Dr. Caligari. The focus of the story here is Caligari’s artistic masterpiece, a secret weapon of sorts which can take down all of mankind: a mesmerizing, hypnotic, and hallucinogenic behemoth of a painting he calls Ecstatic Wisdom, a work of art and war that helps Caligari with a rather nefarious plan.

The story was inspired by the classic 1920s film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. While Morrow’s story is satirical and almost slapstick at times, it manages to avoid delving into the ridiculous, but a certain amount of patience with the absurdity is required. While it is possible to read this book without having much knowledge of Dr. Caligari or the original Robert Weine film, having that experience and background brings the story and the character to life all the more. Morrow successfully uses art as the link between the worlds (bridging from film to print), but the story is essentially original and all his, in all of its strange and interesting glory.