Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Diving-Bell And The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

The Diving-Bell And The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
First published in French as Le Scaphandre et le papillon by Robert Laffont in 1997. English language translation by Jeremy Leggatt published by Fourth Estate in 1997.

Featured in 5Books1Theme: Books To Film
I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:



Amazon UK

Amazon US




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How I got this book:
Bought at the MASH charity shop in Torquay, Devon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Locked-in syndrome: paralysed from head to toe, the patient, his mind intact, is imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move. In my case, blinking my left eyelid is my only means of communication.'

In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French 'Elle' and the father of two young children, suffered a massive stroke and found himself paralysed and speechless, but entirely conscious, trapped by what doctors call 'locked-in syndrome'. Using his only functioning muscle - his left eyelid - he began dictating this remarkable story, painstakingly spelling it out letter by letter. His book offers a haunting, harrowing look inside the cruel prison of locked-in syndrome, but it is also a triumph of the human spirit.

To say that this is a beautiful, an incredible, a moving memoir is completely true, but doesn't come close to doing the book justice. On the one hand we have memories full of life, colour and detail. One the other I was always painfully aware of the extreme conditions under which Bauby wrote. He brings his predicament vividly to life and manages to allow readers into his world. We see his hospital room and the beach to which his wheelchair can just about be pushed, potholes permitting. We experience his joy at seeing his children and his exhaustion after they leave. And Bauby never descends into self-pity or despair.

The Diving-Bell And The Butterfly was made into a film which I watched not too many years ago. The film is good, certainly, and portrays Bauby's life well, but reading the memoir was a far more intense experience for me. I felt as though he was speaking directly to me - which in a way he was. Trying to imagine that situation of having your mind completely alive and active while the only muscle you still control is one eyelid is enough. Living that situation while still retaining a sense of humour and not going completely mad would be beyond me.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jean-Dominique Bauby / Biography and memoir / Books from France

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