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The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly Hardcover – 10 Apr 1997
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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.
* 'Vibrantly, insistently, a tale for our times... it is one of the great books of the century.' Financial Times. * 'This is a memoir where the man speaks for the moment, and it is one of the great books of the century.' Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
This is a very profound book. It is not a wallowing of self pity but observations of the world around & of his own past which kept the author from intense boredom. It explores the glorious events of his past which keep him company while he is "locked in". The sights & most particularly the smells. The taste of special food, the experiences of laughter & sadness. Intermingled with the past are the authors thoughts & comments on the world in which he now lives. The medics he comes in contact with , the visitors who write & visit & other patients in the hospital.
This book did not reduce me to tears as I was reading it. I don't think that was the author's intention. The purpose was to remind us of all those little things we take for granted so easily.
I am glad that I read this book. It is simple & uncomplicated. The text just flowed & before I knew it, I had reached the end. It is thought provoking. How quickly this man's life turned from a successful journalist to a locked in quadraplegic. It does us all good now & then to take stock of things and be thankful for what we have.
Makes you feel fortunate to be alive and healthy. I read other reviews before purchasing which will be more detailed and informative than this!
Bauby is full of sarcasm and gibberish about his life before and after his brain injury. At times one would like to laugh at his wit, but with the laughter immediately being stuck in your throat. His view of things is merciless and hits the mark. This certainly might be disturbing and too rough/direct for many, but in my opinion it is absolutely authentic and makes this book so special.
The change of perspective that Bauby offers is exciting and at the same time shocking. Things get a completely new value. I was particularly impressed by the situation when Bauby was mobilized into a wheelchair for the first time - he was so glad he could finally leave the bed. Bauby says: 'From being the sick, I have become the disabled.' And 'but I have remained calm, fully occupied with measuring the brutal devaluation of my future perspective.' I find Bauby's book highly emotional, although some reviewers criticized the lack of emotion. Bauby is angry, disappointed, desperate, mourns for his lost life, cries discreetly - there is a depth of emotion, it can easily overwhelm you, rush over you like a gigantic wave.
A disturbing and moving testimony of a patient with locked-in syndrome. Everybody should read this book, seriously!
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