Hello world! Happy Thursday! I had a fab weekend packed with class, dinner with Diana, and lots of relaxing. In addition to plenty of Dexter (season 2 is in the bank!), I just finished another book and realized I’m way behind on my book reviews. After I read Ellen Foster, I was still feeling a mild case of book blues so I knew another short book was in order. Up next was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby. I remember The Huz’s cousin, Jessica, reading this several years ago and her remarking on the beautiful language with which this memoir was written. And now I can’t remember why I didn’t pick it up earlier. She was right. The book was impeccably written, a fact made even more impressive given the way the words found their voice.
Bauby, a former French Elle editor, suffered a brain stem stroke and was diagnosed with “locked in” syndrome when he awoke from a coma. The only functioning parts of his body were his brain and his left eye. As he described in his memoir, Bauby communicated the text by blinking his left eyelid to designate words, letter by letter, to an assistant who recited to him a special alphabet.
If the memoir had been full of self pity and rage against the world, I would have understood completely. Bauby’s life had been stolen from him and he was forced to witness it strictly as a spectator. Instead of descending into a pit of inconsolable misery, Bauby seized the beautiful power of his imagination, which “takes flight like a butterfly….You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court,” and he tells stories with humor, a dry wit and an unmatched elegance.
As if the stroke and resulting locked in syndrome weren’t bad enough, Bauby died of heart failure just two days after the book was originally published in France. Since its initial printing in 1997, Bauby’s memoir has become an international bestseller and was adapted into a feature film in 2007. I hadn’t seen the movie prior to reading the book, but I’m looking forward to seeing the adaptation and hope it does the author’s story justice.