The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

Jean-Dominique Bauby ; translated from the French by Jeremy Leggatt.

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.


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Erica JesonisPosted October 7, 2009

This phenomenal biography tells the story of a man who suffers a massive stroke. Twenty days later, he awakes from a coma, unable to move except for blinking one eye. His mind is fully functional, but his body is paralyzed. A former editor, succes...

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Mary Ellen RaunPosted November 1, 2011

Imagine only being able to blink your eye lid. Now, imagine writing a book. In December 1995 Jean-Dominique Bauby had a massive stroke at the age of 43. When he woke from a coma 20 days later he could only blink his left eye. He was a victim of "Lo...

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