The Diving-Bell And The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

No. of pages: 139
Rating: 10/10

Synopsis: 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.

Review: Told through short chapters, this is the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, written after he had a terrible stroke that left him locked inside his own body, with only one blinking eye enabling him to communicate. Amazingly, he managed to write the book entirely this way. Each chapter tells of something different, a memory of his life before the stroke, what it was like waking up after, the sadness and humiliation he feels now that he cannot do anything for himself, to name but a few.

Very sad story, imagine being as mentally sharp as you've always been, but not able to move any part of your body but one eyelid. It certainly takes a lot of strength and courage, not only to carry on without sinking into a pit of depression, but to write a book about what it's like to be locked inside your own body, so other people can understand. The chapters were random, which actually lends to the charm of this book, because it's not all before the stroke and then all after the stroke, he mixes both aspects of his life, sometimes with a dark humour and wit that you cannot imagine feeling yourself in that same situation. It's very well written and flows so easily, but the content really makes you sit back and think about life and try to imagine how terrible such a thing would be. It's definitely something I would recommend, even if it's not something you would normally read, everyone could take something away from this book.
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