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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  42,367 Ratings  ·  3,475 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 132 pages
Published June 23rd 1998 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Petra X
Words flow like the images and emotions of poetry. One thought leads to another. The rambling mind touches like a butterfly, just long enough to draw the essence from a story, and then moves fluidly to another. Jean-Dominique Bauby's body was an immobile weighty shell; the diving bell his perfect simile. Yet in his head he roved the world and composed the words that would let us in. Intent on looking for the cure to let him move again, he moves forward in his final words "We must keep looking. ...more
Gregory Baird
“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
...more
Craig
Apr 02, 2008 Craig rated it it was ok
I know I will likely get flayed alive for rating this one so low, but I just can't see the worship behind it...

First, let me say that the "writing" of the book by someone in such a state is an amazing accomplishment and I dare not take that away from him. (For those that don't know, it was dictated by Jean-Dominique Bauby - former editor of the french Elle - who had a severe seizure and after damage to his brain stem, was diagnosed with locked in syndrome. The entire book was dictated, letter by
...more
Will Byrnes
Jean-Dominique Baube, the forty-something editor of Elle magazine in Paris, husband, father, was stricken by a rare brain disease. After several weeks in a coma he awoke to find that he was a prisoner inside his own body, with control over only his left eye, and motion limited to twisting his head left and right, somewhat. Yet this man managed, with help, to not only maintain his sanity and his optimism, but his appreciation of beauty and his sense of humor. This is a case in which imagination ...more
Yulia
May 25, 2008 Yulia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: me-moirs
I just saw the movie adaptation last Friday, the day before my father-in-law passed away: perhaps not the best time, but I'm the type of person who refuses to get myself out of my mood, but prefers to dwell on my feelings. I actually found the movie much darker than the book itself, which I read when it first came out in English. As the book's from his perspective, we are spared the experience of the silence and loneliness he is encased in. The movie, in contrast, depicts just how terrifying and ...more
✔Jasmine✔
This book involves 28 short stories, or you can say, pieces of memory from the former editor of French Elle magazine, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was permanently paralyzed after a severe stroke. His only way of communication was by blinking his left eye and that was how he patiently spelled this book out. As he put it, and I firmly believed in him, that his main task was to "compose the first of these bedridden travel notes so that I shall be ready when my publisher's emissary arrives to take my ...more
Cassy
Apr 07, 2016 Cassy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those seeking the perfect balance of sadness and beauty
Recommended to Cassy by: The movie, which I never watched but cost me $60 in Netflix fees
I won’t recommend reading this book while signing up for insurance. I started a job recently and was overwhelmed by the different ways I could insure myself and loved ones against horrible tidings. [The following are actual insurance plans. I couldn’t make these up.]
Benefits Department: Do you want life insurance?

Me: Yes! Someone should profit from my death. Party at the funeral home!

Benefits Department: Do you want supplement group variable universal life insurance?

Me: I could be worth $2.5 mil
...more
Shovelmonkey1
Feb 06, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who thinks they might be in danger of taking life for granted
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: Jon
When I first heard about it I did not think it would be the sort of thing I would be interested in reading and definately not the sort of thing I would be interested in watching (having heard it had recently been turned into a film). One of my best friends, a man who is a great deal more sensitive and open minded than I could ever hope to be asked me if i'd read it. "A book about a man who wrote the book by blinking one eyelid?" I asked. "But I like the Die Hard Quadrology, 300 and Wilbur Smith ...more
Alistair
Mar 10, 2008 Alistair rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Richard and Judy viewers
this is quite an achievement .
the writer a quadraplegic with locked in syndrome who died shortly after the publication of this book mangages to make himself into a totally unsympathetic character .
i really disliked this book i suppose because it has gained such an good reputation . this is mis-lit at its worst .
the author is completely self obsessed perhaps unsurprisingly and the profundity is not much above that found in a Hallmark card . it seems that the things the author misses most are his
...more
Muhammad Shakhawat Hossain
‘ডাইভিং বেল’ হলো ডুবুরীদের সমুদ্রের গভীরে পাঠাবার বিশেষ এক ব্যবস্থা। বাতাসকে কাজে লাগিয়ে অত্যন্ত সরল এই যন্ত্রটির ব্যবহার শুরু সম্ভবত অ্যারিস্টটল এর সময়কাল থেকে। ছোটবেলায় গোসল করতে গেলে প্রায়ই একটা খেলা খেলতাম। মগের ভেতর শুকনো গামছা দলা পাকিয়ে ভরে মগটিকে উপুড় করে বালতির পানিতে চাপ দিয়ে দিয়ে ভেতরে ঠেলতাম। মগের পুরোটাই পানির তলায় চলে গেলেও ভেতরের গামছায় পানির স্পর্শও লাগতোনা, কারণ মগের ভেতরের বাতাস পানিকে ভেতরে ঢুকতে দেয়না। এই একই কার্যপ্রনালী ব্যবহার করেই ডাইভিং বেল তৈরী করা। ঘন্টা আকৃতির নিচের ...more
Laurel
Jun 11, 2009 Laurel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This is one of those books where the story behind the story was more interesting to me than the book itself. For those who don't know, Jean-Dominique Bauby (the former editor-in-chief of French Elle, had a stroke in his mid 40's that left him with a body entirely paralyzed but a mind fully intact. This is referred to as locked-in syndrome, a condition that, in the author's words, is "like a mind in a jar."

The one part of his body that Bauby could move was his left eyelid. Remarkably, he was able
...more
Kirstine
Nov 14, 2015 Kirstine rated it really liked it
I read it in an afternoon and it is, in one word, beautiful.

This book was, for me, about the simple things we often overlook, mostly because we're too busy and don't take the time to actually look, but also because seeing takes a particular state of mind, it requires an openness, that is not always easy to come by.

Jean-Dominique definitely had the time to observe the world, and the immensity of the strength, courage and determination it took to put a fraction of those things onto paper is enou
...more
Aberjhani
A Small Book with a Big 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 ret
...more
Debbie "DJ"
May 23, 2014 Debbie "DJ" rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, health
I had forgotten I read this some time ago, but it still sticks with me today. I also saw the movie, which I thought stayed true to the book, but also added visuals which really brought this story alive. Interesting choice of words...alive. I don't know if I would want to be alive in this state. This was a very unique look at a disease called "locked-in-syndrome.
David
Jun 28, 2008 David rated it really liked it
Before reading it, I wasn't aware this book was originally in French. It has a simple lyricism even in translation, which makes me want to read the original. It's the kind of book that can be read very quickly, but probably shouldn't be. Rather, one should savor the well-mixed hope and sadness.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Feb 17, 2009 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeanette by: Elisabeth
This is a series of vignettes composed and painstakingly dictated by a man with "locked-in" syndrome. He could only communicate with eye blinks, but had a very fertile and sharp mind. He shares what it's like to live with his condition, as well as stories from his life before the stroke that stole his freedom. There is sadness, of course, and a certain amount of "why me?", but it's never maudlin, and he managed to keep his sense of humor. Very short and worth reading.
Be grateful for the small t
...more
Laysee
Jan 23, 2011 Laysee rated it really liked it
Would you write a memoir if all that was left of your ability to communicate with the world was a nod or a wink? Jean-Dominique Bauby did. Letter by letter, the Editor-in-Chief of French Elle, dictated his life story despite being totally incapacitated by “locked in syndrome” following a stroke. The diving bell and the butterfly are powerful metaphors that bespeak the triumph of the human mind over physical disability of the highest order.

This is one of the most moving books I’ve read this year
...more
Brittany
Check out my blog to see Reviews of Book and Movies, and check out some Recipes!

This was definitely a quick and interesting read. I have actually never seen the movie, and this was my first time getting around to reading the book. The write Jean-Dominique Bauby wrote with the aid of a "translator" that had to have taken an extensive amount of time. Jean-Dominique, former editor in chief of Elle magazine, becomes a quadriplegic after a stroke affects his brain stem. He can only communicate in a t
...more
Marilyn
Apr 01, 2008 Marilyn rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People who are locked in
Recommended to Marilyn by: Marina
This book, although it provides the first ever look inside the head of a person with "locked-in" syndrome, was not the evocative masterpiece I'd hoped it would be. Although the author's situation (how one manages to write a novel while paralyzed) and the whole premise of the book are fascinating, the book is no better than ordinary. I haven't yet seen the movie, but I'm sure it made a much better film than it did a book, as one can use the camera, actors' expressions and music to make you feel ...more
Irmak
Ben bu kitabı sanırım hakkıyla okuyamadım. Dikkatimi toparlayamadım hiç.
O yüzden puan vermeyeceğim. Ne düşündüğümü bile bilmiyorum.
Peter
Jan 30, 2009 Peter added it
The power of this short memoir is that it exists.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a collection of short reflections and anecdotes by Jean-Dominique Bauby, the once-editor of the French Elle who at age forty-three suffered a massive stroke that left him completely paralyzed, unable to move or communicate save by blinking his left eye.

Knowing this, every page of prose is a modern miracle. It helps that the prose is really good.

The experience of reading this, then, becomes a source of great cog
...more
Lynn
May 28, 2016 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Five stars for the herculean effort writing this book must have been and the honesty of the grief.

Five stars for the truth it made me face about my own attitude towards old people I regularly see who can't communicate.

Five stars as a statement against the butthole who borrowed the book from the library and edited every page with quotation marks to improve punctuation for a man who blinked every letter we read.
Ana Maria Rînceanu
Despite its brevity, this book packs a punch. A slightly sarcastic, emotional punch.
Richard
Suppose a book, written in near-impossible circumstances and universally praised ever since, disappointed you, left you unsatisfied? Would that tell you much about the book itself, or more about you its reader?

First the facts. In 1995 Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of the magazine Elle, suffered a massive stroke which even a decade earlier would have killed him. Not now though - today medical science can keep you alive...after a fashion. His brain-stem irreparably damaged, the result was
...more
Christina Ramos
Jun 28, 2011 Christina Ramos rated it did not like it
I'm just as compassionate as the next person, and while my heart goes out to Bauby and his family for the tragic circumstances that left him paralyzed from the neck down, only able to communicate by blinking his left eye, I still hated this book. It is an admirable feat to dictate an entire book (though very short - I was able to to start it while eating my breakfast and finish it right before walking into work on the same morning), it still lacks substance. The author is successful at conveying ...more
Peter Heinrich
Aug 08, 2012 Peter Heinrich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
The wide margins and short chapters of this thin volume are important physical features Bauby's memoir. They're a constant reminder that every word, every letter came at a very high cost. It's impossible to forget, if a passage seems short, that it had to be dictated one letter at a time, using an amazingly laborious process called partner-assisted scanning—an interlocutor recites the alphabet until the "speaker" indicates the correct letter has been reached, at which point the letter is copied ...more
Nikki
Jan 05, 2015 Nikki rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
When reviewing a book like this, do you consider the sheer effort that went into this? Every word of this was written by dictation — by Bauby blinking when the right letter came up, one letter at a time. We’re told he could only blink one eye (though that seems odd when elsewhere he mentions that he can move his head a little). Every word of this is from a strange world where the speaker can no longer move, no longer do anything physical voluntarily. All he had were his thoughts: were they worth ...more
Steven
Aug 11, 2016 Steven rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, french
Anyone that is able to get through this without showing the slightest bit of emotion is not a human being. A remarkable story of a remarkable man, so full of life one minute and reduced to movement in one eye the next, a haunting, harrowing look inside the mind of a person with locked-in syndrome you would think this would end up as a rant of anger and "why did this happen to me", but his dignified manner and spirit was truly inspirational and caught me out at just how uplifting it would turn ...more
Zaki
Nov 14, 2012 Zaki rated it it was ok
What a load of bollocks!
Colin McKay Miller
Oct 12, 2010 Colin McKay Miller rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Many authors say they agonize over each word they write, but in dictating The Diving Bell and the Butterfly to an assistant with nothing but his left eye and her willingness to repeat a frequency-ordered alphabet until he blinked at the correct letter—a process that took, on average, two minutes per word, culminating in four hours a day for a total writing period of ten months, with no room to edit after it left his head—I’d say journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby has them beat.

Up until December 6th
...more
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Jean-Dominique Bauby was a well-known French journalist and author and editor of the French fashion magazine, ELLE.
On December 8, 1995 at the age of 43, Bauby suffered a massive stroke. When he woke up twenty days later, he found he was entirely speechless; he could only blink his left eyelid. This rare condition is called Locked-in Syndrome, a condition wherein the mental faculties are intact but
...more
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“I need to feel strongly, to love and admire, just as desperately as I need to breathe.” 86 likes
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