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The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly Paperback – 7 May 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Film tie-in edition edition (7 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007139845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007139842
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

On December 8, 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby's life was forever altered when a part of his body he'd never heard of--his brain stem--was rendered inactive. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, his exquisitely painful memoir, is neither a triumphant account of recovery nor a journey into the abyss of self-pity. Instead, it is a tender testament to the power of language and love. At 43, Bauby was defined by success, wit and charisma. But in the course of a few bewildering minutes, the editor-in-chief of French Elle became a victim of the rare locked-in syndrome. The only way he could express his frustration, however, was by blinking his left eye. The rest of his body could no longer respond. Bauby was determined to escape the paralysis of his diving bell and free the butterflies of his imagination. And with the help of ESA, "a hit parade in which each letter is placed according to the frequency of its use in the French language," Bauby did so. Visitors, and eventually his editor, would read each letter aloud and he would blink at the right one. Slowly--painstakingly-- words, sentences, paragraphs and even this graceful book emerged.

Bauby relays the horrors and small graces of his struggle, which range from awaking one day to discover his right eye being sewn shut to realising the significance of Father's Day, a holiday previously absent from his family's "emotional calendar": "Today we spent the whole of the symbolic day together, affirming that even a rough sketch, a shadow, a tiny fragment of a dad is still a dad." The author makes it clear that being locked in doesn't kick open the doors of perception, but The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is nonetheless a celebration of life. Jean Dominique-Bauby died of a heart attack on March 9, 1997, two days after his book was published in France. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

‘The most remarkable memoir of our time.’ Cynthia Ozick

‘Read this book and fall back in love with life.’ Edmund White

‘A staggering piece of work. It represents an almost inconceivable act of generosity, the gift of the mind and the spirit for which writing was designed.’ A. L. Kennedy

‘One of the great books of the century.’ Financial Times

‘Everyone in the country should own at least one copy.’ Guardian

‘We listen, because what he has to say goes to the core of what it means to be human.’ Robert McCrum, Observer

‘The most extraordinary book of the year.’ Daily Telegraph

'Life-enhancing and devastating in equal measure – everyone should read it.' Gloss magazine


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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Nov 2002
Format: Paperback
I know you're not supposed to focus on the author and their situation rather than the actual book, but in this case it's hard not to. I have read this book several times and each time it has the effect of making me profoundly glad to be alive. Bauby is keenly aware of his exclusion from the things in life which we take for granted every day - a hot bath with a cup of tea and a good book, for example - and makes the reader realise exactly how much we do take for granted, things that we should be so, so grateful for if ever we were, like him, unable to ever experience them again. As well, it is an excellent book in itself: movng and beautifully written, and showing clearly the humour and the courage of the writer in the hardest and most horrible of situations. It is also a testament to the strength of the mind and consciousness: trapped within his head, Bauby revisits every aspect of his past and conjures up tastes, sounds, smells and sensations. The book is enjoyable and easy to read; I would definitely recommend it to anyone.
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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Marly Z on 6 Jan 2008
Format: Paperback
I find it hard to write about this novel, for what can I say that can justify the feelings & emotions this book invokes in the reader. A novel written by a man whose only form of communication is to blink his left eye when a visitor recites the correct letter, where Bauby must have spent hours agonising over every word, sentence and paragraph whilst many writers will write chapters in half the time, similarly, as a reader I find that I also spend more time pondering over each sentence, giving myself time to digest what has just been said - this is truly a novel where every word counts, because the writer didn`t have the leisure of wasting pages with words that have no worth. This may be a short novel, but it takes time to read, not only because you'll want to re-read whole paragraphs at a time, but because, on countless occasions, you'll read something that will make you pause for a while, put the book down, and simply sit and think. Bauby's own contemplation rubs off on the reader, where he cannot fill in all the details, the reader appeals to their imagination and allows their mind to fill in the blanks of horror and fear.

Bauby's style deserves a mention. Whether through skill, detachment, selflessness, or purely based on the difficulty of communication, Bauby adopts a style that is not only honest, but subtle, to the point, without pity, and riddled with dark humour. If this was an overly dramatic novel full of misery and self pity then I would not be wasting my time writing a review. One thing that really struck me while reading this book was Bauby's sense of acceptance of it all.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Adrian Lever on 31 May 2003
Format: Paperback
If, in order to write a book, you must first arrange each sentence systematically in your head, then dictate each letter of each word in those sentences by way of blinking your left eye as someone reads the alphabet to you, you are bound to keep your prose spare. And that is exactly what Bauby did, his formidably touching and beautiful novel uses only the most essential lyrical and simple prose, and is a short but wholly engaging read. This makes a perfect present as I have never met anyone young or old, male or female, who has not enjoyed this. A must for everyone's bookcase.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 July 1999
Format: Paperback
Words have trouble expressing how deeply moving Bauby's work is, especially when one knows he finally succumbed to the locked-in syndrome shortly after completing the book. His disability held him captive yet somehow gave his mind the freedom to wander through uncharted depths of human thinking, guiding the reader through his sorrows, joys, appreciations of the small pleasures of life, and his frustration both with the way people perceived him and his inability to walk amongst them. It is a little book of incredible power which I recommend to anyone becoming disillusioned with their lives.
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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor Fitzsimons on 21 Nov 2006
Format: Paperback
The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly is a truly extraordinary book and gives us a unique insight into a thankfully rare condition known as locked in syndrome. In 1995 Jean Dominique Bauby, Editor in Chief of Elle Magazine, suffered a massive stroke which rendered him completely paralysed and speechless. Communicating by blinking his left eyelid he painstakingly dictated this book and died two days after its publication. The ability of Bauby to keep his composure in the face of such a terrifying experience seems to be attributable to a futile belief in his ultimate recovery and a side effect of this syndrome where sufferers do not appear to experience terror, rather tranquillity tapered by sadness. Few sufferers have expressed a wish to die thus demonstrating the strength of the human spirit and the triumph of hope over adversity. There are moments of deep sadness and one of the most poignant passages describes father's day on the beach when Bauby longs to reach out and hug his young son. However, at times the book is a celebration of his former charmed life and the richness of his narrative is remarkable as he recalls his past in vivid detail. Very thought provoking and well worth the read
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