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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir…

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death

by Jean-Dominique Bauby

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3,7161432,298 (3.96)145
In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young childen, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem.  After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he 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. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book. By turns wistful, mischievous, angry, and witty, Bauby bears witness to his determination to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to do in his body. He explains the joy, and deep sadness, of seeing his children and of hearing his aged father's voice on the phone. In magical sequences, he imagines traveling to other places and times and of lying next to the woman he loves. Fed only intravenously, he imagines preparing and tasting the full flavor of delectable dishes. Again and again he returns to an "inexhaustible reservoir of sensations," keeping in touch with himself and the life around him. Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. This book is a lasting testament to his life.… (more)

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English (132)  Catalan (2)  Italian (2)  Portuguese (2)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (143)
Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
This book is amazing and very beautifully written; raw but without the least bit of self-pity. I almost feel gluttonous to finish reading this book so quickly, knowing full well how laborious was the process the author dictated each letter by blinking his left eye. I don't come across books I like to re-read too often, but this is one of them. ( )
  meikuen | Apr 7, 2020 |
Bauby has "locked in" syndrome. This book was written using his left eye to blink out the coded alphabet to his assistant who transcribed it for him. It's a meditative book and reminded me of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey. ( )
  trinker | Jan 9, 2020 |
Author Jean-Dominique Bauby died just two days after the publication of his book THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY. The reader is told this up front to erase any thoughts of a happy ending and to force the reader to appreciate the amazing achievements inherent in every carefully chosen word. Success is not calibrated by what we achieve or what we gain materially but by how much we retain of who we are when everything else is taken away. The author suffered a massive stroke that left his mind intact but took away most of his body. That body, the heavy leaden and lifeless diving bell, and his mind the beautiful butterfly in flight--one trapped inside the other and inseparable. Writing anything is difficult. Facing a blank white sheet is daunting. Imagine if your entire world was that blank sheet and you had to fill it every day with your own wit and imagination. The author's restless mind is writing all the time whether conjuring up the vivid details of meals he can no longer enjoy or recalling opportunities missed because he took so much of life for granted. Despite the awkward dictation tool of only being able to use one blinking eye, the swift beauty of his prose caresses the page like a gentle stream we know will dwindle to nothing all too soon. As I drifted with his thoughts, I remembered other books that gave me a similar feeling of beauty and isolation...John Baley's ELEGY FOR IRIS, Dalton Trumbo's JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, Kate Chopin's THE AWAKENING, Charlotte Perkins-Gilman's THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, and Margaret Atwood's SURFACING. All worth your time. ( )
  KurtWombat | Sep 15, 2019 |
A heartbreaking little book. Book club selection for January. ( )
  LizBurkhart | Sep 5, 2019 |
Shattering. Try blinking out something better. I dare you. ( )
1 vote Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
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For my children, Théophile and Céleste . . .

And my deepest gratitude to Claude Mendibil,
whose all-important contribution to these
pages will become clear as my story unfolds.
Pour Théophile et Céleste en leur souhaitant beaucoup de papillons.

Toute ma gratitude va à Claude Mendibil dont on comprendra en lisant ces pages le rôle primordial qu'elle a joué dans leur écriture.
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Through the frayed curtain at my window, a wan glow announces the break of day.
Derrière le rideau de toile mitée une clarté laiteuse annonce l'approche du petit matin.
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Coma. Een briljante geest raakt gevangen in een totaal verlamd lichaam. Alleen al het denken aan een dergelijke situatie is benauwend. Leven in een onbeweeglijk duikerpak, zonder hoop op herstel...
Het overkomt Jean-Dominique Bauby, succesvol journalist en hoofdredacteur van het blad E//e. Op 8 december 1995, 43 jaar oud, raakt hij na een beroerte in een diep coma.
Eind januari 1996 komt hij weer bij bewustzijn. Al zijn motorische functies zijn gestoord; hij kan niet meer bewegen, eten, spreken en zelfs ademhalen is zonder hulp niet mogelijk. De medische wereld heeft er een uitdrukking voor: het 'locked-tn syndrom' ofwel 'opgesloten in jezelf. ,~
Bauby heeft nog 'geluk1: hij is in staat zijn linkerooglid te bewegen. En zijn gedachten zijn glashelder...
Met behulp van dat ooglid en een speciaal alfabet weet Bauby zijn gedachten (vlinders noemt hij ze zelf) te dicteren, letter voor letter. Woorden rijgen zich aaneen tot zinnen, tot hoofdstukken en uiteindelijk tot een boek. Een verbluffend boek, benauwend maar ook optimistisch, humoristisch en spiritueel.
Voor Jean-Dominique Bauby was elk woord kostbaar. Zijn verhaal is als een schatkist, maar het is ook zijn testament. Hij stierf een paar dagen na het verschijnen van zijn boek, in maart 1997, met de wetenschap dat toonaangevende critici Le scaphandre et Ie papilion als een meesterwerk beschouwden.
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