Monday, February 25, 2008

The Diving-Bell & The Butterfly

I'd never heard of Jean-Dominique Bauby's book before I saw it reviewed by Maggie. When I went to the used book store a couple of days later, there it was, so I thought it was meant for me to read at this point in my life.

The Diving-Bell & The Butterfly is an amazing book. Its author, Jean-Dominique Bauby, is the former editor-in-chief of the French Elle who had a massive stroke in 1995. What does that mean? In his words:

"In the past it was known as a 'massive stroke' and you simply died. But improved resuscitation techniques have now prolonged and refined the agony. You survive, but you survive with what is so aptly known as 'locked-in syndrome'."
His brain was working perfectly, he was perfectly aware of everything, be he was completely paralysed. He could move his left eyelid and he dictated the book using a blink pattern to indicate the letters of each word. So letter by letter.

And what a book. It is not full of self-pity, nor is it simply a tear-jerker (although some moments brought tears to my eyes). It doesn't tell us to live every minute of life to its fullest, but that is, of course, understood. It is a completely different look at life and one that I think all of us should take the time to know.

I cannot imagine being in that situation, imagine relying only on your memories when you cannot predict what effect they will have on you - sometimes joy, sometimes regret... Thinking about it makes me feel extremely lucky that I can live life the way I'm living it right now.

Jean-Dominique Bauby died in 1997, two days after his book was published in France. I think it deserves to be read by as many as possible and I hope that the blogging phenomenon will help this. It gets 5-stars with me, I hope that you get the chance to read it too!

Bauby talks about The Count of Monte Cristo in his book and because of this I'm bumping it up my to-be-read list and hope to get to it next month.


Lezlie said...

This sound really good. I may have to put it on "the list" for next year. . .


joanna said...

It's a short one, you may be able to fit it in this year even! ;-)

Maree said...

I loved The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. When I finished it, I had to remind myself that the guy had died - his voice in that book was so vivid.

joanna said...

Maree, me too! I'm glad he lived long enough to see his book published.

Anonymous said...

I loved "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", but the movie I'd rather see is "My Stroke of Insight", which is the amazing bestselling book by Dr Jill Bolte Taylor. It is an incredible story and there's a happy ending. She was a 37 year old Harvard brain scientist who had a stroke in the left half of her brain. The story is about how she fully recovered, what she learned and experienced, and it teaches a lot about how to live a better life. Her TEDTalk at TED dot com is fantastic too. It's been spread online millions of times and you'll see why!