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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death | [Jean-Dominique Bauby]

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death

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.
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Publisher's Summary

In 1995, 44-year-old Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young children, and a 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 brain stem. 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.

©1997 Jean-Dominique Bauby; (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"[A] warm, sad, and extraordinary memoir....Actor Rene Auberjonois's narration adds to the poignancy of the story." (Library Journal)
"As eloquent as Bauby's phrases is Rene Auberjonois's performance of them....Auberjonois also relays Bauby's somber emotions and memories, switching tone effortlessly to express the witty anecdotal reflections that make this an inspiring audio production." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

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  •  
    january huntersville, NC, United States 03-21-13
    january huntersville, NC, United States 03-21-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Short but well written"

    I've been meaning to read this book since it came out in the late 90's. I'm glad I finally got to it. What an interesting perspective on a condition that none of us could imagine enduring. I love reading books that can make us see out of the eyes of people for whom we would give no thought otherwise. (Thinking in Pictures and Middlesex come to mind.) Jean-Dominique Bauby tells of his loneliness and degradation of locked-in syndrome with grace and dreaminess. I am truly amazed at the effort it took to write this book. I wish he could have lived to see his story reach people.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Talia TULSA, OK, United States 03-11-13
    Talia TULSA, OK, United States 03-11-13 Member Since 2007
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    "A heart-wrenching and uplifting tale"

    This was a compelling book. At times quite sad and occasionally rather humorous, Bauby takes the reader on a journey through a life that is irrevocably changed in the space of seconds. This book challenged me to reassess the things I find important in my life and realize that every moment is precious and should be lived fully.

    I thought Rene Auberjonois did a fantastic job narrating the story and achieved the perfect tone in communicating Bauby's struggle.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    eden Draper, UT, United States 03-19-12
    eden Draper, UT, United States 03-19-12
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    "an original"

    i thought this was a really interesting and unique insight into the life of someone who has become completely paralyzed and unable to communicate through normal means. pretty short, so it didn't take me long to get through it. i hadn't really thought of what it would be like to be in a body unable to do anything, while your mind is fully functional. i'm grateful that jean-dominique bauby and his transcriber were able to put this together. such an interesting story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Sheila
    Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, United Kingdom
    2/12/08
    Overall
    "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

    This book is both heart-breaking and uplifting. The author has suffered a stroke which has left him in `locked in syndrome`, his only means of communication is the flicker of his left eyelid, the way that he `dictated` the book. Poignantly he describes his life in hospital and the comings and going of the staff. The language is poetic as befits a former editor of a top magazine and the book is beautifully read. I was there in that hospital room observing the staff and the various ways they had of coping with a patient so severely disabled. There is no self pity in the writing, it has an ironic tone as his observations float from what is going on around him to events that occurred when he wsas still active. I would proscribe this book as compulsory reading to any one considering nursing the physically disabled. The writing is poetic and beautifully read.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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