Jean-Dominique Bauby's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is a small book composed of many big wonders. Primary among thA 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 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.
Aberjhani author of I Made My Boy Out of Poetry and Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance...more