The Human Essence

January 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby a well-known French journalist, author and editor of the French fashion magazine Elle.  A film, by the same title, and based on the book, was nominated for four Oscars in 2008.

On 8 December 1995 at the age of 43, Bauby suffered a massive stroke. When he woke up twenty days later, he found only his left eye had movement. The stroke had resulted in locked-in syndrome, a condition where mental faculties remain intact but most if not all of the body is paralyzed.

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is Bauby’s memoir. He learned to communicate by blinking his left eye whenever his speech therapist would get to the letter he wanted and thus forming words and phrases.

The title of the book comes from Bauby’s notion that while his body was submerged and weighted down — impossible to move — his imagination and memory were still free and as light as a butterfly’s wings: “My cocoon becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court.” A few days after the book was published to rave reviews in March 1997, Bauby died of an infection.

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