The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly

Ever since emerging from his coma at the age of 44, father of two, and editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine, Jean-Dominique Bauby wakes within his living cocoon, unable to move or speak. However his mind and faculties are as sharp as before he suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhagic stroke.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby 1997

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby 1997

Every morning begins the same way for Jean-Dominique, that is, in Room 119 of the Naval Hospital at Berck-sur-Mer. His head weighs a ton, limbs serve only as dead weights burning hot or ice cold and worse, he not knowing which sensation, other that endless tormenting pain; congested bronchial tubes noisily rattling, and something like an invisible iron diving-bell holds his entire body prisoner. Unwilling to be confined, his beautiful mind takes flight like a butterfly. Sweet mercy.

This is the true life tale of a self-proclaimed scarecrow who, with the aid of his publisher’s emissary, “wrote” this book, one letter at a time, one blink at a time…

In the prologue the gentle reader learns that improved resuscitation techniques have now prolonged and refined the agony of a stroke victim. Jean-Dominique survives his stroke, but he survives with locked-in syndrome. Paralized from head to toe, his mind intact but imprisoned in an immovable body, unable to speak, shift posture or express his face; blinking his left eye his only means of communication.

E S A R I N T U L O M D P C F B V H G J Q Z Y X K W

Astute calculations made within the mind place letters in a neat row which indicates frequency of use in the French language. The author was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. Words formed, then sentences, then paragraphs.

In this way, he was able eventually to compose this unprecedented book: a glorious amalgam of tales, flights of fancy, historical artefacts and his witty and wry observations on what life is like at Berck, that serve to uplift the reader’s own spirits.

This 139 page book comes highly recommended. Allow your own mind to flutter about the gardens Jean-Dominique Bauby describes as he takes you along with him on his memoirs.

One Response to The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly

  1. Hey, thanks for sharing I always look forward to reading your posts one of the few blogs I still follow home decorated

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