The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Vintage International)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Vintage International)

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In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the 43-year-old editor of French Elle, suffered a massive stroke that left him permanently paralyzed, a victim of ¡°locked in syndrome.¡± Once known for his gregariousness and wit, Bauby now finds himself imprisoned in an inert body, able to communicate only by blinking his left eye. The miracle is that in doing so he was able to compose this stunningly eloquent memoir.

In a voice that is by turns wistful and mischievous, angry and sardonic, Bauby gives us a celebration of the liberating power of consciousness: what it is like to spend a day with his children, to imagine lying in bed beside his wife, to conjure up the flavor of delectable meals even as he is fed through at tube. Most of all, this triumphant book lets us witness an indomitable spirit and share in the pure joy of its own survival.

We've all got our idiosyncrasies when it comes to writing--a special chair we have to sit in, a certain kind of yellow paper we absolutely must use. To create this tremendously affecting memoir, Jean-Dominique Bauby used the only tool available to him--his left eye--with which he blinked out its short chapters, letter by letter. Two years ago, Bauby, then the 43-year-old editor-in-chief of Elle France, suffered a rare stroke to the brain stem; only his left eye and brain escaped damage. Rather than accept his "locked in" situation as a kind of death, Bauby ignited a fire of the imagination under himself and lived his last days--he died two days after the French publication of this slim volume--spiritually unfettered. In these pages Bauby journeys to exotic places he has and has not been, serving himself delectable gourmet meals along the way (surprise: everything's ripe and nothing burns). In the simplest of terms he describes how it feels to see reflected in a window "the head of a man who seemed to have emerged from a vat of formaldehyde."

Customer Reviews:

  • Just when you think "nothing can top this........."
    We collect stories of Extraordinary Comebacks, and occasionally, we say to ourselves, 'nothing can top this.' Then, along comes The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Our protagonist, Frenchman Jean-Dominique Bauby, 43, was in the prime of life, editor of Elle, with a sports car, three adoring children, a mistress, and the world by the proverbial tail. In one instant, he suffers a stroke and is submerged in a world where he can understand but not communicate, a victim of "locked-in syndrome" -- as the author states, "a hellish trap as likely as being caught in as winning the lottery."

    He says he would be the happiest man if all he could do was swallow. But he can't.

    So -- with an active mind that is disconnected from his entire bodily function with the exception that he can blink his left eye -- what does he do? He honors his contract to write a book the only way he can.

    By blinking his left eye.

    A translator painstakingly repeats letters of the alphabet in order of most frequent use. When the letter he wants comes up, Jean-Do blinks. And so goes the "dictation." And so through this tiny, pinprick-sized hole, his imagination can pour forth -- one letter at a time. his essays on life in the hospital in his new condition, imaginings of his children, gourmet food, events of his past life. Regarding the latter, forever gone in physical reality, but persistently alive in his spirit.

    This story is all at once horrifying, uplifting, numbing, life affirming. And finally, heroic. Bauby died just 10 days after his book was published -- it was his mission to communicate, to affirm life itself, that kept him going.

    Made into a film by artist and now director Julian Schnabel. Not for the squeamish, but also, not to miss....more info
  • A Novel Menagerie's Perspective on The Diving Bell & The Butterfly
    After reading Lisa's Best of 2008 List and after speaking to a fellow "Basketball Mom" last week, I was intrigued to read The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. The story is a sort of an auto-biographical one, however only sharing Bauby's remarkably beautiful memories of the life he lost after the massive stroke he suffered in December 1995. At the time, Bauby was 43 years old and the editor of French Elle Magazine. From what I gather in this book, his life was once filled with travel and he was the type of man with an incredible passion for life. Once stripped of his physical abilities and the ability to effectively function and communicate due to "locked-in syndrome," a permanent and full paralysis as a result of the stroke, his mind craves to communicate the very acute and real memories to his bedside assistant.

    Bauby is able to communicate via the blinking of his one functioning eye. He describes in the book that he had written and edited the material multiple times in his mind so that the effort to communicate it was clear the first time around. In his memoirs and thoughts, he shares his vivid memories of his travels in his past and times with his family and friends. He further describes what it is like to be trapped in this non-functioning body and compares it to being weighted by a diving bell/suit. He shares what all his sensory functions are like: eyesight, hearing, dreams, smell, and pain.

    This book was, to me, more of a book of prose than of typical writing. Each line of the book intricately designed to effectively provide the reader a vision and an understanding.

    In describing how it felt to now be described as a vegetable:

    "The tone of voice left no doubt that henceforth I belong on a vegetable stall and not to the human race. France was at peace; one couldn't shoot the bearers of bad news. Instead I would have to rely on myself if I wanted to prove that my IQ was still higher than a turnip's."

    And, he describes the hospital cafeteria:

    "Although my own corner of the hospital has the look of an expensive private school, one would never mistake the cafeteria crowd for member of the Dead Poets Society. The girls have hard eyes, the boys tattoos and some with rings on their fingers. There they sit, chain-smoking and talking about fistfights and motorbikes. Their already stooped shoulders seem to bear a heavy cross. Cruel fate has cured them, and their stay at Berck is just one more stage between an abused childhood and jobless future. When I am wheeled through their smoke-filled lair, the silence becomes deafening; I see neither pity nor compassion in their eyes."

    Some of my favorite parts of the book include his visit to the beach, his viewing of his children playing, and his description of what food tastes like although he is only being fed by a tube. This is a remarkable book in the knowing of how it was written and the determination it took Bauby to ensure its completion.

    On Sher's "Out of Ten Scale:"

    There is no clear book to use as a comparison to this one as it is unique in every way. This is a book that reminds you of the sheer preciousness of life and the value of human health. For the genre Non-Fiction, I would give this book a 9 out of 10. My thanks go out to Lisa for lending me the book.

    ...more info
  • A life confirming read
    After reading this book, this mans account of his two years imprisoned in a body that will only allow him to blink one eye, I must daily reconfirm how fortunate I am to type this review and walk about freely.

    I cannot imagine anyone reading this without being profoundly affected by it....more info
  • You Can Live Through Anything if you Keep You Sense of Self
    More than anything, this is the story of the survival of the self. After suffering a 'massive stoke', Jean-Dominique Bauby can only move his left eye (called 'locked-in syndrome'). Using a 'volume loaded' alphabet (based on usage) he is able to 'speak' about his life and situation. He describes his situation as being in a 'diving bell (or suit)' floating in water with no control of his movements.

    But he has taught himself to be a 'butterfly' and travel all over the world. He can revisit with old friends and remember the pleasures of a life well-spent. Though the movie is remarkable, the texture of the stories, really comes through in his own words. Though he died just after the publication of the book (in 1997), he left a testament to the power of thought and the will to survive....more info
  • Small Book's Got a Giant Soul
    Jean-Dominique Bauby's THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY is a small book composed of many big wonders. Primary among this book's extraordinary qualities is the fact that Bauby, a former editor in chief of the world-famous French ELLE, was able to "write" it at all. After suffering a stroke to his brain stem and spending 20 days in a coma, Bauby regained command of a nearly clairvoyant intellect but lost all authority over his body. The sole physical function he retained was the ability to blink his left eye; by use of it, he developed a kind of sign language that allowed him to dictate letter by painstaking letter the brief and luminous chapters that make up THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY.

    Anyone could easily have forgiven Bauby had he chosen to lapse into the kind of rage and unhinged sentimentality that characterize (although justifiably so) other memoirs based on extreme medical situations. However, he takes a wholly different route. Like "the invisible diving bell" that imprisons his body and the butterfly wings of memory and meditation that provide some relief, Bauby's prose floats back and forth between the severe and the sublime.

    Astonishing above all else is the stream of humor that flows unforced and unfettered throughout the book, as when the editor insists on being allowed to drool while dressed in cashmere rather than in hospital garb. From musings on the glamour of his former life to the simple pleasures of a leisurely bath, this book contains much irony and healthy doses of cynicism. It displays as well the brilliant dignity of one damaged soul's refusal to fade into nothingness before having its final say. Despite Bauby's death two days after the French publication of his book, his voice will boom through these pages for many years to come.

    Author-Poet Aberjhani
    author of The Harlem Renaissance Way Down South
    ...more info
  • Unique piece of literature
    I bought this book as a christmas gift for a neurologist in my family, after reading a very favorable review of it in a major medical journal. I did not read it myself, but the final recipient was very happy....more info
  • Amazing
    A rare look into the mind of a severely affected stroke victim. He has more courage than I have and I am glad he took the time to share his world with me....more info
  • What a great read!
    This book was an eye-opening and amazing view into the internal life of a man under tragic circumstances. It is a very human look - sometimes funny and sarcastic and at times tragically sad - into Bauby's mind and spirit which never gives in....more info
  • Prose from behind the Wall
    There are several marvelous things about The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The most incredible thing about this spare French memoir is that it was blinked by a former editor who had a stroke and became "locked-in." Even holding the book up to your eyes, free at all times to get up and look out the window or scratch your foot, produces a powerful swirl of emotions: awe at being alive at all, gratitude for not being "locked-in," compassion for this intelligent man imprisoned in a worst-nightmare scenario, guilt at not having done more with one's own healthy life. In this respect the book is not to be missed. The book cleans out the cobwebs of routine, allowing for a crisp new persepctive on reality.

    As far as the story goes, the chapters unfold in two or three pages and mostly chronicle life at the Brittany hospital where the author finds himself after the stroke. There are also a few flashbacks to life before the stroke. The book, surprisingly, is almost totally devoid of self pity and the prose is taut (as expected) and well structured. It's about a two hour read and well worth your time.

    I came to this book via the 2007 film. I was so moved by the film that I went out and read the book the following weekend. The merits of the film are well documented. Sort of a side note, one way the film diverges from the memoir is in the sexualization of the female characters, ie nurses, ex-wife, lovers. So much of the film is spent on lusty shots that I was surprised upon reading the book that it contains almost none of that. That's film for you.
    ...more info
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Vintage International)
    Dear sir:
    My girl friend send back this book(The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Vintage International) to amazon I wont send back my mony to my creditcard.

    Thanks...more info
  • wish i liked it more
    I was so inspired by the premise, and I wondered what beautiful prose a man "locked in" would produce. Unfortunately, I found it average. The most inspirational part of the book was his willpower to write it, in his condition. It is also valuable to note how much he could think under the circumstances.
    His situation however, was not unique, though his case was more extreme than most.
    His life was not particularly inspirational - he seemed to live for fine cars and fine food and travel. A nice book, but probably more meaningful to his family and friends than the population at large.
    Look elsewhere for inspiration....more info
  • I am alive, I can think and no one has the right to deny me these 2 realities....
    Yes! That is what this book is about, a man who's life has drastically changed by an almost fatal neurological accident. He can only dictate his story by blinking his left eyelid and using the most common letters in the French about making a book in the most un-imaginable way.

    The result is nevertheless a wonderful account of his two years in the people reacted to his condition, how remembering was one of the most beautiful escapes he would have...but most of all how to get by one day at a time.

    I have read in the past Tuesday's with Murray, a book I found fantastic as well, but be aware these two are different things. They both talk about remarkable men under their circumstances, but the way they were written are very different, they are both excellent.

    Finally, I would only like to add that it takes very little time and money for someone like you and me to read a book like this, but the perspectives that it leaves in its readers are tremendous......more info
  • Outstanding
    Great book that looks into the mind of a man trapped in a immobile body....more info
  • Flight
    How does someone even begin to review a book like this? The beauty of its prose, its imagery, the unbearable pathos of the backstory behind its creation. All the superlatives have been heaped on it by others. I just wanted to add another recommendation....more info
  • acceptance of fate is his gift
    First, the story of this man communicating with the world by blinking his left eye is fascinating. The description of prioritizing letters based on their frequency of use in the French language is really cool.

    However, the real wonder in this book is Jean-Dominique's acceptance of fate. He is certainly not happy with it, and feels quite demeaned at times by hospital staff, but he keeps on going, and as a result we have this beautiful memoir that he shared with the world....more info
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life and Death
    I thought this was a wonderful quick read. I saw the movie and couldn't wait to read the book. How amazing that in all his struggles he was able to write this book. It shows you that even without body function the amazing strength of his will can go on....more info
  • A Life of Courage
    Jean-Dominique Bauby's story should awake some of our more primal fears and yet this story is strangely calming. What is amazing is that he wrote this book by blinking his left eyelid. In a completely paralyzed state he relies on his memory for entertainment and recounts interesting dreams and vivid experiences. His keen sense of observation takes in all the details others may ordinarily miss.

    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is truly a unique look at what it means to be permanently paralyzed and barely able to communicate. This book is a testament to the indomitable human spirit. 132 pages make this a quick read but one that may affect you profoundly. We take the simplest things for granted and this book teaches us to observe our lives from a more positive perspective.

    ~The Rebecca Review
    ...more info
  • Not a big impression. Sorry.
    Quite frankly, this was just not my type of book. I definitely feel compassion for Bauby. I think it is absolutely amazing he was able to dictate a book in this condition. I am not familiar with "locked in syndrome" and I admire Bauby for his determination under these dire circumstances. However, I am not a big fan of a book where the focus is more on metaphors and writing style. I think it takes away from the emotion that can be projected to the reader. It is a possibility Bauby hid behind the words and phrases and I do not blame him for this. This book just wasn't able to leave that big of an impression on me. I feel bad about that but not guilty. ...more info
  • A Unique Book
    The word "unique" is probably overused, but here it applies. This book was written by a stroke victim who was paralized except for one eye-lid. He laboriously wrote the book with the help of a therapist who kept reading the alphabet and the author would blink his eye when she came to the right letter. In this way, he is probably the only completely paralized stroke victim who could transmit his feelings and memories. Since his brain and senses functioned perfectly, he was able to do this. If you think that this is a depressing book, you are wrong - it is really uplifting. The movie made from this book is also very much worth seeing....more info
  • Haunting. Beautiful. SCARY
    Wow. To say that this book makes an impact is to state the obvious. Jean existed in what I would call a "living hell" -- alert and cognizant though paralyzed and trapped -- "locked in" his mind without the ability to communicate his thoughts, feelings, needs, or condition to anyone. He suffered a stroke at a very young age and was left completely paralyzed with only the capability of sight, thought and the ability to blink his left eye. I felt his frustration, his every breath, his longing to move his finger even a fraction of an inch, his pain at his inability to express himself. Thank heavens for the ESA alphabet and the breakthrough that allowed him to communicate. He dictated this memoir by blinking to Claude as she reached each letter of each word in each sentence in this book.

    A testimony to the human spirit. It's not really sad, it's uplifting to think that this incredible man overcame his imprisonment in his mind to tell us all that he was still "there" through it all.

    I hope it makes just one person compassionate and caring. I wish that everyone, somehow, learns about this condition and will use this knowledge if faced with or dealing with someone who has it.

    To say it's inspirational would be to give some meaning to Jean's suffering. There is no meaning. It was a horrible way to live the last year of your life.

    But this story and Jean Do will linger in my mind for a very long time. ...more info
  • Motivational!
    This book is excellent in every way. It really has pushed me to finish writing my own book. Within a week, I wrote my first chapter and found a well-known agent - it's a great motivational tool!

    LA Mu?oz...more info
  • Marvelous!
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death was highly recommended by staff at the Hospice where I volunteer. The spirit of the book has not left me since reading it several months ago. Jean-Dominique Bauby touches our very souls in his expressions which he struggled to get on paper while he still had time. Many of my family members have now been given this gem and have nothing but raves for its contents....more info
  • Diving Bell
    This is an informative and eye opening book into the thoughts of a person with 'locked in' syndrome. It was light reading. Is a short book as one could expect considering the conditins it had to be written under. ...more info
  • A Beautiful Mind
    I wrote a glowing review of this book a few years back,so I hope the full text of that is still buried in here somewhere.However,I'd like to add one more thing:how sad I find it that Mr.Igoe can call Mr.Bauby's book the work "of an ugly mind".My viewpoint of Mr. Bauby was just the opposite-that his was truly a voice of great beauty,complexity,courage & humour.Yes,to be sure he was a deeply flawed man-(aren't we all?)at the time of his stroke he was separated from his wife,had a somewhat laissez-faire attitude to his girlfriend,exhibited a deeply hedonistic streak,& scattered through his prose are touches of a certain dismissive Gallic arrogance towards those who irritate him.
    But the point is,in spite of these deeply human frailties,Bauby acquits himself more than honorably in the wake of the catastrophic stroke that would leave him locked inside his frozen corpus.That he could in fact,create an inner life of Imagination,of Art,of Memory,and still contribute to an outside world(through his newsletter and Foundation) that had largely forgotten him after his fall from grace is testament to the potential and potency of every spirit.Bauby's flaws become even more poignant as his situation forces him to evaluate what really matters in the making of A Life.As butterflies undergo metamorphosis while in a cocoon,so did Bauby's plodding caterpillar of a character metamorphose and transcend the imposed limits of his own prison.I would add that this unflattering picture is painted by Bauby himself: at no times does he try to sugarcoat his own failings.And when your work has been dictated through nothing but blinks,I imagines a certain amount of niceties of structure go out the window.
    I can only guess that Mr. Igoe's barrier to seeing the beauty of Bauby's soul is largely a cultural one.To be sure,it is hard to imagine an Englishman writing in such a curt fashion,and I'm sure in some parts French original loses something in English translation.
    Are we so used to many so-called 'heroes' in popular culture being so thoroughly sanitized & semi-deified in their presentation in order to 'inspire' us,(from the puffery of Tom Cruise to Dickie Attenborough's OTT,yet oddly colorless portrait of Gandhi) we have no desire to hear a message from a fractured mortal like Bauby?In doing so we forget the real miracle of heroism is that it usually springs not from saints or supermen but from quite ordinary folk with bellies & bad tempers,men who at the end of the day took a painful journey to overcome their failings in order to understand the true essence of being a Human Being.Bauby is one such Broken Angel.His book is one of the few to have a profound effect on my life and I am indebted to him for it.
    Having read both the book and seen the documentary,I see a film has been made to great critical acclaim.Apparently it is quite faithful to the source.My sincere hope is that those who failed to connect with the message of the book will be persuaded when its many beautiful images are presented visually on screen.As the book enriched and shook my world,I wish the same experience for them.
    ...more info
  • Rarely does a movie improve the book, but in this case it does!
    I saw the movie before I read the book. Perhaps that was a mistake, but I loved the movie so much that after seeing it three times, I wanted more. So I read the book and wish I hadn't. Julian Schnabel's version of this story is filled with agony but also with light and beauty. The actors are so accomplished and moving (particularly Max von Sidow) that the story becomes human and uplifting, in spite of its tragic ending, and like all great art it affirms the worthwhileness of life, even in its diminished but heroic manifestation. In the book, Bauby--understandably--writes in a self-centered and superficial way. I feel guilty even saying it, because, of course, he was in an unimaginably difficult situation. But Schnabel had a deeper and more insightful vision. Schnabel portrays a man who indeed was selfish and vain at the beginning of his hellish journey, but who is able to turn to imagination and writing as a way of transcending the pettiness, wildness, and meaningless of his former life.
    This change is indicated in several ways. First, when he learns to communicate, Bauby tells his speech therapist that he wants to die. (This does not appear in the book.) She is very upset and reproaches him for his despair. Then she comes back to apologize for stepping out of line. This human interaction of caring and anguish affects the protagonist who decides a short time later to stop feeling sorry for himself and, instead, to use his imagination and memory in order to write down his thoughts and thus defy, in the only way available to him, his diving bell. This decision, probably thought out by the director or the actor (because it is not mentioned in the book) also leads him to reflections of remorse for the way he had been treating his wife and a wish, clearly articulated, to make amends. There is no remorse in the book; instead, Bauby remembers a horrendous fight with his wife, which does not flatter either of them, and conveys little insight into the nature of his toxic relationship with her. His hostility toward her, in the book, is still simmering, even in his paralysis. A Greek philosopher said that suffering leads to wisdom. And that's what great art gives us as a gift nonpareil. I didn't see wisdom in the book, but I did see it in the movie.
    Furthermore, the book skips his meetings with his wife and his girlfriend, meetings which the movie presents in rich and poignant abandon. In the book, Bauby's relationship with his father is summarized, in a paragraph, rather than experienced. In the movie the acting of both von Sidow (as the father) and the actor who plays Bauby is magnificent. The relationship between father and son becomes a profound and moving experience. Schnabel, no doubt, turned a mediocre book into a great work of art. And if he gave the real Bauby a depth he didn't, in reality, have--so be it. ...more info
  • Amazing
    I work with brain injured people daily and they never cease to amaze me. The book and the movie are testimony to the strength of the human spirit....more info
  • Intriguing story for any human
    I am usually a connoisseur of fine fiction, but I found this little biography to be quite compelling. I was directed to this book after I saw a preview for the movie. While the writing and imagery of "the Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is straightforward and simplistic, it truly is the story behind the writing that makes this book captivating. Bauby doesn't have to reach out with his written words and shake the reader into thoughts of "the meaning of life" and "seizing the day". It is the reader who becomes engrossed in the history and genius behind Bauby's elegant simplistic prose that finds the true treasure of Bauby's gift. What would you want to say to the world if you were in his position? Read it and appreciate. ...more info
  • Life In the Diving Bell
    Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of the French Elle magazine. Imagine what his life was; to be an arbiter of style, of what is chic, in that most glittering of cities, Paris. He consorted with the innest of the in crowd. He was one of the fates chosen ones. At the age of 43 he suffered a massive stroke that wiped out the abilities of his brain stem. He became of victim of "locked-in syndrome", where his mind continued to function as well as ever, but his only bodily ability was to blink his left eyelid and rotate his head slightly. He wrote this book after his stroke had robbed him of his former life. He names his mind "the butterfly" since it can still fly to exotic places, enjoy friends, remember sumptuous meals, and reflect on his current life which he calls, "the diving bell". The mechanics of writing this slim book are a testament to his determination. The French alphabet was arranged in order of frequency of usage. An assistant would read the alphabet to him. When the correct letter was reached, Bauby would blink his left eye. Painstaking letter by letter this book grew to document his thoughts on his life in the diving bell. Because the writing is so laborious, Bauby was forced to be economical with his words, yet his mind still wants to communicate so badly, "I need to feel strongly, to love and to admire, just as desperately as I need to breathe."
    Bauby was never a saint, but robbed of everything, he is nothing more than a human trying to survive a horrible situation. Cut off from almost everyone and everything, he still manages to craft a life. One day, he inadvertently catches sight of his reflection in a window pane, "I saw the head of a man who seemed to have emerged from a vat of formaldehyde. His mouth was twisted, his nose damaged, his hair tousled, his gaze full of fear. One eye was sewn shut, the other goggled liked the doomed eye of Cain. For a moment I started at that dilated pupil, before I realized it was only mine. Whereupon a strange euphoria came over me. Not only was I exiled, paralyzed, mute, half deaf, deprived of all pleasures, and reduced to the existence of a jellyfish, but I was also horrible to behold." Yet he allows us to fly with the butterfly as well. Even though the only way he can take nourishment is through a tube in his stomach, he sits down to the most wonderful meals. Since he is the cook, the food is always prepared perfectly. At the beginning of his enforced fast, he was gluttonous. He conjured up food all the time indiscriminately. Soon he learned to savor his pleasures though, imagining strawberries only in the early summer, celebrating autumn with oysters. The butterfly brings him not just food, but books, art, theatre, friends, family, hopes and desires. This book is such a quick read, but I think it is better read slowly, a few pages at a time. There are no great philosophical discussions to ponder in the book, only the most profound questions of all. What makes a human human? What makes a life worthwhile? ...more info
  • "Does it take the harsh light of disaster to show a person's true nature?"
    The situation is unimaginable: waking from a coma to find yourself trapped in your own body, able to think clearly and understand what is going on around you, but unable to partake in any of what transpires. It's called "locked in syndrome," and Jean-Dominique Bauby finds himself a victim of it when he awakes from a coma following a serious stroke that damaged his brain stem and left him almost totally paralyzed; he has only limited facial movements, slight control over his neck, and use of only one eye. It is with this single good eye that Bauby is able to communicate with the world, using an excruciatingly slow code of blinking that requires time, energy, and a great deal of attention and patience. And it is also thanks to this one eye that we have this first-hand account, dictated by Bauby from his hospital bed, recounting the details of his life in the wake of tragedy.

    Far from being restricted by his condition, Bauby unleashes the full force of his literary capabilities (which were quite estimable, considering that he was the editor of French Elle), leaving us with a wry, touching, and deeply affecting memoir that shines with descriptive flourishes and deep insights. His perspective in the wake of tragedy is awe-inspiring and leaves the reader with a deep respect for his fortitude; truly, this is a man I would have loved to have had an opportunity to have a conversation with, just to try and absorb a small degree of his wisdom and experience. "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" has moments of regret, frustration, sadness and aching loneliness, but curiously absent are anger and self-righteousness. Bauby never curses his misfortune but focuses on getting by with the hand he was dealt. To read his memoir is to get to know a truly extraordinary man whose spirit refused to be crushed and whose mind and imagination allowed him to survive in the most constrained of circumstances. To say that "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is about the triumph of the human spirit is a sorry understatement, and does little to pay tribute to an amazing man.

    "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is a slight volume, to be sure, but it feels wrong to criticize it for that when one considers the conditions under which it was composed. And considering that Bauby packs a hefty punch in such a short page count, it is well worth the experience.

    Grade: A-...more info
  • Grants you access into a lonely, locked-in world; this poignant memoir is a stark reminder of how precious life is. BCM
    The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly is such an insightful and inspirational book. This is one mans story; his triumph of spirit and his courage despite all odds. That a man in his prime, powerful and respected, could be brought so low by a rare condition known as locked-in syndrome; it is almost to horrible to contemplate. This story is a quick read and has a distinct, flowing plot. I was really fascinated by Jean's indomitable spirit and his sardonic wit. There were many times when I smiled at Jean's comments and thoughts, delighting in his zest for life while in a near vegetative state. The beautiful writing was so vivid and detailed that I could almost see through his one, good eye. His absolute determination, to share his story with the world leaves us forever in his debt. Though I was saddened by his condition and ultimately his death, I really enjoyed his story.
    I highly recommend this book.

    (9 out of 10 Diamonds) - Loved it!

    ? 2008-2009 Bobbie Crawford-McCoy (Book Reviews By Bobbie).
    All rights reserved.

    ...more info
    Its one of the few times that the movie adds to the book, both should be experienced and are inspirational...more info
  • Excellent!
    This is a wonderful book. Very quick read. Makes you truly appreciate your own life. Highly recommended....more info
  • Very Inspiring
    This is a very inspiring and amazing book. Bauby's situation might have seemed hopeless to most, but he turned it into an opportunity. He devised an alphabet which could be communicated by using the only body part he could move, his left eye. Through this communication vehicle he was able to "talk" to his family, friends and those tending to him, if they would only take the time to listen. Bauby's efforts provide helpful information to health care providers as well as to those with loved ones who are caught in the throes of locked-in syndrome which may be experienced by some stroke victims. Despite the dismal circumstances, Bauby's handling of the situation makes this an uplifting book. I could only hope to be half as brave as Bauby given the same circumstances....more info
  • Buy it!
    Although the author had been an editor in his previous life, not all editors can write a thoughtful,well written expose on life in the diving bell(he uses this symbolism to express what his life has become after a stroke left him only able to blink his eye).
    The book is an unbelievably joyous romp through his trials and tribulations since life dealt him a heavy blow. He does not want sympathy just your attention as you constantly wait for him to break down, which he doesn't do.

    This book was an odd choice for me but one that I'm finding I have no trouble recommending. It is short, intelligently written(with the blink of an eye)and one that will stay with you. ...more info
  • Uplifting and Inspiring
    Strange to say that a man befelled by a horrible stroke that leaves him mute and trapped in his body leaves such an inspiring message with the rest of the world. My husband picked this book up and couldn't read it because he thought it would be depressing. My parents lent us this book to share their excitement over being inspired by this man, this author. It is with caution that I picked up this book as I was not in a mood to cry.

    I didn't cry. But it did leave a lasting impression on me though. A man who is alive, perhaps more alive than most of us are, trapped in his body that he called like living under a diving bell, manages to create a lasting beautiful memoir of a man deeply alive till his last moments. It doesn't matter that he couldn't get up nor talk. He still feeled and ached in his mind and he was truly a human being though his body failed him. By this, I mean, he refused to allow despair to overtake him and rob him of the joys of living his last days. He chose to find beauty in the simplest things. He chose to remember his life and created new stories to amuse himself and possibly others. Not till the end, did he mention how it all happened.

    This is truly an inspiring little gem of a book. I didn't take it as a political book but as a reminder that life is indeed fragile and fleeting. It is possible to live to the fullest in spite of pain and grief and being locked down in one's body. Beauty isn't necessarily physical but it is spiritual. And this is a very spiritual book where it celebrates life.

    2/17/08...more info
  • the diving bell and butterfly
    THank you! Fast shipping, exactly as promised. SUch an amazing book--you should see the movie as well....more info
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    Received the product within 5 days or less. It was in immaculate condition!! Thank you....more info
  • An inspiring life testament

    Bauby gives us a truly remarkable and inspirational story of his life trapped inside a body that no longer serves him.

    But his mind remains as sharp as ever.

    He transcends his immobility with grace and a remarkable gift of a rich, lucid imagination.
    He is free in his mind to enjoy all of life and it's lush sensory gifts and take flight as if a butterfly.

    A heartbreaking true story.

    ...more info
  • Does the Emperor wear no clothes?
    This is in review of the english translation by Jeremy Leggatt.

    This is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, the chapter in the life of Jean-Do Bauby that this autobiographical piece captures is one which no decent person would wish on another human-being. Let alone imagine themselves having to live out. In this regard, this is a hero story of epic proportions.

    But as an author, and as the protagonist of the stories he chose to share, the Jean Bauby of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is something else entirely.

    I began the book with infinite amounts of sympathy for the man and his plight. By the end of the book I felt I had just finished reading some of the lower-rated sections of the Michelin Travel Guide.

    And this is the troubling part - is a person who reads this book and is left feeling less-than-inspired heartless and unfeeling? Or is the rave reviews of the book more because of the feat and life lived to create it and less because of the book itself?

    In the end I was left with the impression that the Jean Bauby as presented in the book was a difficult man to sympathize with. I am not a fan of the Randian hero, so perhaps this flavors my feelings, but I came to feel that the diving bell was no new feature in his life. It just affected his ability to connect and relate to others before it came to afflict his entire body.

    Ultimately, as a book, it was disappointing. And as a window into his diving bell, I can only hope or assume that there was more to the man than came through.

    For those who knew him, I'm sure it was a gift. But for the rest of us, I think that the emperor is naked....more info
  • The Diving Bell & the Butterfly
    An amazing story of human resilience - Jean Dominique Bauby's story is incredible. This memoir was written by Bauby after he suffered a serious stroke which left him completely paralyzed except for the ability to blink one eye. A true testament to the human spirit....more info
  • Heartwarming Miracle
    My MD recommended this book when it was first published in France. I had to special order an English version. He said it was "a must read". I have since bought and given away countless copies of the book. The message of hope, mercy, and grace bring tears of joy to me each time I read it. I have read it many many times and each new reading gives me a new insight into the diving bell. It is a an easy read, but I am reminded of the great effort it took to write it. God's mercy gave him strength to blink the book and his own grit gave him the spirit to finish it. Many of us with medical issues can relate to his words, but I don't think I have ever met a person with such courage....more info
  • amazing and terrifying
    It is hard to imagine being in this situation. We are given an insight into a condition that makes us think what would we want given such a limited quality of life. I wish we could have heard from his family about their feelings and communication with their husband and father. It was incredible he was able to learn to dictate this book and credit to the women who so patiently helped to give us this short account of this tragedy....more info
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is terribly overhyped. Naturally it is a phenomenal undertaking for a disabled Jean-Dominique Bauby, but it is far from a quality literary work. It reads more like a moneymaking venture if it was intended to be published; or marketing it as a literary work was the moneymaking venture. I will see the movie though in the hope that it is different from the book. This book certainly would not lift up the spirits of a convalescing disabled person. ...more info
    Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice
    Feeling sorry for yourself? Life got you down? Read this. In 1992, the author was the 43 year old editor of the French Elle. A witty bon vivant with two children and a full life, Bauby suffered a massive stroke that left him completely and permanently paralyzed. He could blink his left eye-- that's it. This book was written by Bauby blinking as a reader read a special alphabet aloud. Blink= Write that LETTER. The book was written like that, letter by letter. It's short. Depressing? No. Lovely. A lovely, moving, haunting memoir of a man who used his mind to entertain and delight himself when that's all he had. He tells of the hard parts: His children's visits. Old acquaintances calling him a vegetable. But this is a magnificent final song. Bauby died 2 days after the French edition of this book came out. It was the #1 International Best Seller in Europe. Praised universally by critics. Inspiring....more info
  • This book has taught me to be appreciative of life's little things
    Quadriplegia a horrible fate, to be physically confined to a wheel chair and to even lose the ability to move one's arms! [Christopher Reeves is indelibly etched in my mind]. So you can imagine how much worst, confining and monstrous a fate is "locked-in-syndrome." This is caused by the destruction of the brainstem, either by accident or severe stroke [as in the author's case]. The brainstem sends messages to the muscles. Those unfortunate enough to be afflicted with this malady can't even speak. They are completely entombed in their own body and can only comunicate with the wink of one eye. It's like being trapped in a cadaver. Imagine to not even have the ability to satisfy an itch, squat a fly from your face, position yourself in such a way that relieves the discomfort of a sore arm, tell someone that you're in pain, that you've wet yourself, or to return a love one's affectionate hug, kiss or smile. Imagine knowing that your situation is as bad as it gets. All that is life as we know it and take for granted has changed and will never, ever come back.

    The sheer horror of Jean Dominique Bauby's tragedy--a victim of "locked-in-syndrome-- is beyond words, yet, this book is inspiring and has the power to teach the reader a valuable lesson. It has taught me to be grateful to God, to enjoy life's little pleasures and to live the moment. It has taught me patience and not to worry so much about life's little setbacks.

    I'm very sad for Bauby, but grateful to him for leaving us this wonderful celebration of life. Mr. Bauby's martyrdom has resulted in a beautifully written, inspiring and powerful book that we should all read. I'm, also, grateful to Julian Schnabel for turning this gem into a movie. Schnabel has the ability to turn wonderful books into great motion pictures. He did so in 2000 with Reinaldo Arenas's "Before Night Falls" and did it again this year with Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

    ...more info


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