December 8, 2011

Book Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


'Le scaphandre et le papillon'

I first watched the film at an arthouse cinema in Leeds and was so touched by this story that I then read the book.The memoir tells of Jean-Dominique Bauby, then 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 most minute 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 to eventually compose this extraordinary memoir. 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.

So if you're ever feeling sorry for yourself and in need of some inspiration, have a peek at this book or the film adaptation. I promise you that whatever it was won't seem as big a deal anymore.

XXX


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