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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Deathby Jean Dominiqu Bauby
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"A wistful, poetic, ironic and whimsically affirmative testament by a man who refused to die in spirit." The New York Times
"A book of surpassing beauty, a testament to the freedom and vitality and delight of the human mind." Oliver Sacks
"Bauby dictated, letter by letter, the 28 tiny personal essays of this book. They demonstrate indisputably Bauby's irrepressible love of life." Booklist
"Although every word cost the author a superhuman effort, the prose is not sickbed telegraphese but rather as light as the sprightliest humor, as pungent as the taste of cooking apricots, as vigorous as the step of a young man setting out on a first date. Read this book and fall back in love with life." Edmund White
"As riveting as a narrative from an explorer of deep space, this communication from a mind imprisoned in an unresponsive body is remarkable for its utter lack of self-pity or sentimentality....An unforgettable read." Andrew Weil
"This heartbreaking story by a uniquely gifted writer is about transforming pain into creativity, human despair into literary miracle." Elie Wiesel
About the Author
Jean-Dominique Bauby was born in France in 1952. He attended school in Paris. After working as a journalist for a number of years, Bauby became the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine in Paris in 1991. On December 8, 1995 he had a stroke which left him with the condition known as locked-in syndrome. Bauby died on March 9, 1997. He was the father of two children, Theophile and Celeste.
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