Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death Paperback – June 23, 1998
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
From The New England Journal of Medicine
I brought this book along on an airplane that took me to a meeting in a distant city. Reading it made me hope that air traffic would delay our arrival. It is a remarkable tribute to the human spirit -- a book that will inspire any physician, medical student, nurse, or patient. There is no self-pity and no thought of physician-assisted suicide. The tone is as ironic and dry as perhaps only the French can be. In a seaside hospital, Bauby, imprisoned in his paralyzed body, recounts his days. He notes that a stroke such as his is usually fatal, but "improved resuscitation techniques have prolonged and refined the agony."
Now, instead of directing one of France's leading fashion magazines, he is strapped in a wheelchair, completely dependent on others for the simplest demands of life: shut the door, roll me over, fluff up a pillow. "A domestic event as commonplace as washing can trigger the most varied emotions." And then there was the boor who, with a conclusive "Good night," turned off the Bordeaux-Munich soccer game at halftime and left. Bauby's attendants dressed him not in hospital garb, but in his own clothes ("Good for the morale," according to the neurologist). Bauby comments, "If I must drool, I may as well drool on cashmere." He is, as he says, a "voiceless parrot" who has made his nest in a dead-end corridor of the neurology department. When the stretcher-bearer who returns him to his room leaves with a hearty "Bon appetit!" the effect on Bauby is the same as "saying `Merry Christmas' on August 15."
Fed by two or three bags of brownish fluid instilled into a gastric tube, Bauby recalls his culinary skills -- boeuf en gelee and homemade sausage -- and melon, red fruit, and oysters, but above all, sausage. He imagines spending a day with his children, lying in bed beside his lover, and flying to Hong Kong, and he dreams that Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs, is performing a tracheotomy on him. In the Cafe de Flore, noxious gossip from the lower depths of Parisian snobbery poisons the air: "Did you know that Bauby is now a total vegetable?" Bauby, "to prove that my IQ was still higher than a turnip's," begins a remarkable correspondence, not by pen but by blinks. "The arrival of the mail [had] the character of a hushed and holy ceremony." Every sentence of this arduously written book is a jewel burnished by a rare disease and still rarer intelligence.
Bauby died only two days after the publication of his book in France.
Reviewed by Robert S. Schwartz, M.D.
Copyright © 1998 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved. The New England Journal of Medicine is a registered trademark of the MMS.
From the Inside Flap
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.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The 8th of December 1995 began as a relatively unremarkable day for Jean-Dominique Bauby, Editor of Elle magazine in France. That evening, Jean-Dominique would endure a colossal cerebrovascular accident that would leave him with locked in syndrome, resulting in the inability to move and speak. Using a ghostwriter, Claude Mendibil, and only the blinking of his left eye, Bauby gives the reader a glimpse into his current life and thoughts as well as overlooked memories form his past. Jean-Dominique’s use of a diving bell and a butterfly encompass his take on his new life, restricted in body but free in mind to take flight to new and old places. His descriptive telling of the experiences, thoughts and memories Bauby has draws the reader in and reminds us to cherish even the most mundane of experiences. The following paragraphs will highlight some of his experiences in the chapters.
Prologue: The initial introduction to Jean-Dominique’s waking life. The pain he experiences upon waking without the ability to move or sense whether he is hot or cold. It is here the reader first understands what lock in syndrome is and how while it is quite awful, he is able to escape reality by exploring in his mind and creating vivid scenes as well as re-experience memories.
The Wheelchair: A number of white-coated professionals place him in a wheelchair for the first time. He still unsure exactly what his situation is and remains the same after his short lived and unceremonious wheel chair experience when he is left alone once again. This should an eye opener for all professionals that while we are busy individuals we must take time to be present with our patients.
Prayer: This chapter discusses Bauby’s realization of needed to achieve smaller goals rather than grandiose plans. In his mind and prayers, he assigns each spirit a specific healing task that brings a small comfort but little reprieve.
The Alphabet: Bauby uses the French alphabet ordered by frequency to communicate. He discusses the simple yet tedious way he converses with others as well as the differences in communication partners that can be both fatiguing and enjoyable.
Tourists: Bauby describes the rehabilitation room, a place where individuals of various levels of ability work on their recovery. During a particular exercise, he expresses feeling like a statue in a room full of tourists, who cannot acknowledge him.
Guardian Angel: Sandrine, his speech therapist and guardian angel, returned to him the ability to communicate and remain connected with others. Unfortunately, we are also told that many of his caretakers fail to use this communication mode resulting frustrating experiences.
The Photo: This chapter reminisces about his last time spent with his father, one where he was the caretaker for his fail elderly father, prior to the stroke. The contrast between his positions then and now points out how fast situations can change for any one of us.
Voice Offstage and My Lucky Day: Here Jean-Dominique briefly discusses his fears and discontent with medical professionals as well as his own body.
Through a Glass, Darkly: It is Father’s Day, and Jean Dominique writes of the tender love of his children and they way they are have grown into personalities that are influenced by their lives.
Paris: A description of his how his views and feelings towards the city of Paris, Bauby is reminded during his trips to Paris that the city has continued to bustle and time has gone on without him.
The Vegetable: This chapter marks 6 months since the dramatic shift in his life; he now sends monthly letters to family and friends. He receives many in return and feels proud to be able to exert his unwillingness to be called a vegetable, if even not in his presence.
Twenty to One: A now painful memory of a trip to the racetrack with an old friend, where conversation, enjoyment, food and drink resulted in the loss of opportunity to win 20:1 odds on a particular racehorse, one who’s name he struggles to remember. This chapter is full of regret of for opportunities not seized but also of opportunities he will never again experience.
The Duck Hunt: The stroke left him with hearing problems that make everyday noises sometimes unbearable, in this case the incessant quacking of a nearby patient’s movement detection device. He retreats to his mind and listen to butterflies to escape the unbearable noise.
Sunday: His least favourite day of the week. The hospital becomes a ghost town with only minimal staff and visitors. This day is often lonely, particularly since he is unable to adjust the television or read a book by himself.
The Ladies of Hong Kong: Here he describes his mind’s travels from places he a been a number times to others like Hong Kong, where fate has always disallowed him. He also recalls a memory of a friend who was captured and held by the Hezbollah for years and ponders the fact that he now feels imprisoned much as his friend was.
“A Day in the Life”: This second to last chapter is where the read will at least read about the day when his life was forever changed. His description of the day as well as the songs on the radio give the impression that he had no idea what was to come.
Season of Renewal: This final chapter describes some of his progress, his joy of family time, and his acknowledgement of his new life.
My only criticism is that while Jean-Dominique’s descriptions are both eloquent and vivid enough to paint a picture of his experiences, each chapter feels separate from the next, leaving the reader to try and piece together the bigger picture. This does not overly distract from the enormity of the task Bauby completed writing his memoir only blinking his left eye.
Finally, any individual who works in the medical setting will find insight both into patient’s lives and how they can improve their experiences in the smallest of ways. This memoir may also benefit those who have loved ones who have experienced the devastation a stroke can cause by giving them a small glimpse into the mind of someone who is no longer able to communicate as they once were. This book also gives hope that though life may be permanently altered by terrible events, there can be renewal and new joy in the unexpected.
Top international reviews
I found it moving to hear how he could find the positives in current life while not glossing too much over the tragedy of his condition. It's a testament to his bravery and ironic sense of humour and the help he received from those around him. This is not a dreary, sad book although there are tragic moments - it's fascinating to see the view from his perspective and I hope will help me appreciate my life more and have more sympathy and patience with those who suffer.
It's quite a small book (novella) with short chapters, great read for travelling or just before bead
The book is a breathtaking account of one man's thoughts and feelings with 'locked-in' syndrome or basically what you would consider a human vegetable. But it is much more complex, the ex-Editor in Chief of Elle Magazine writes an incredible prose full of wonder, excitement and description. The chapters are short and easy to digest.
I recommend seeing both the film and reading the book here is why:
The book - gives an account of this persons thoughts, feelings and a little insight into his personality. This tells you what is on the inside.
The Film - Is a great piece of movie making which explains what is happening on the outside from the moment Mr. Bauby wakes up in hospital to the end really.
My mother did not want to read the book because she felt it would make her feel sad, but it is quite the opposite. In fact, reading about victims of locked-in syndrome on Wikipedia out of the 20 or so cases around the world, only one committed suicide. The others? Just got on with things including a talent scout that works for Middlesbrough.
Well worth a read!
This is a memoir written by Jean-Dominique Bauby and is formed of a series of anecdotes and experiences of his life before and after the stroke that left him afflicted by the condition known as Locked-in syndrome and only able to communicate via the blinking of one eye.
It doesn't have a strictly chronological narrative, but still manages to tell his story and cut to the heart of his emotions and the point he is trying to make with searing honesty and power. Bauby writes with a humour that belies the turmoil he is going through and his eloquence brings you fully into his mindset and also marvelling at some of the language he uses.
I have read numerous memoirs about neurological conditions and whilst others have resonated with me more (like Michael J Fox's memoir, Kirk Douglas' autobiography or Christopher Reeves' autobiography) this book still manages to leave you in awe at Bauby's tenacity and his strength of character. It is short, beautifully written and thought provoking.
Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
Of a French man who was struck with locked in syndrome..
How he managed to blink his eye to a journalist who wrote how he felt and how people treated him
A deffinate must read
Carnt praise enough