The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This is the novel written by Jean-Dominique Bauby about his life after a stroke, which left him suffering locked-in syndrome. This meant that Bauby could only blink a single eye, turn his head, and some facial expressions voluntarily. And yes, that means that this entire book was blinked out, letter-by-letter. Which is just incredible to begin with. The patience and effort that that took is astounding.

“My diving bell becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly.”

Hearing his story told by him was interesting, he gave a unique perspective on the world. You felt incredibly sorry for him having to lived that trapped life, but he was able to share this story with the world, and we are grateful. Reading about how different people reacted to his tragedy was fascinating. Some people just couldn’t handle it, and didn’t have the patience to try and communicate with him. The poor treatment of him by some of the staff was frustrating, going into this field, I hope I remember this story, and don’t treat anyone like they did to him.

“Other letters simply relate the small events that punctuate the passage of time: roses picked at dusk, the laziness of a rainy Sunday, a child crying himself to sleep. Capturing the moment, these small slices of life, these small gusts of happiness, move me more deeply than all the rest. A couple of lines or eight pages, a Middle Eastern stamp or a suburban postmark . . . I hoard all these letters like treasure. One day I hope to fasten them end to end in a half-mile streamer, to float in the wind like a banner raised to the glory of friendship.
It will keep the vultures at bay.”

The book is reasonably short (for obvious reasons), so I highly recommend that you read it, it’s definitely worth it, and gives an insight like no other. Thank you Bauby for not resigning yourself to being trapped in, and taking the effort to tell you story.


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