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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  69,354 ratings  ·  4,832 reviews
‘Locked-in syndrome: paralysed from head to toe, the patient, his mind intact, is imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move. In my case, blinking my left eyelid is my only means of communication.’

In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French ‘Elle’ and the father of two young children, suffered a massive stroke and found himself paralysed
Paperback, 132 pages
Published June 23rd 1998 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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Seamus A person mostly sustains themselves with the constructions they have built of themselves, their place in the world and their life more generally. Baub…moreA person mostly sustains themselves with the constructions they have built of themselves, their place in the world and their life more generally. Bauby is talking about his present moment attachment to all those constructions and how his attachment to them and identification with them is fading. I don't use the word 'constructions' in a pejorative sense.(less)
Manoj i havent watched the movie but read the book.

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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Petra wants more princes & less frogs to kiss
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. I ...more
Apr 02, 2008 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
May 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Prognosis: Man may be inspired & find beauty even at his own death bed.

But there is a question even Bauby asks himself: Does all of this a novel make?

No. (Not even a decent... anecdote?)

It is, however, testament of the prognosis which questions the central Meaning of Life question. Bauby finds personal beauty, even if he cannot do anything with it but blink it in code to his nurse since he is absolutely paralyzed.

But this is no Anne Frank, however. This is no beauty pertaining to a person trapp
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
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 i ...more
**spoiler alert**

In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine, suffered a massive stroke to his brain stem which left him totally paralyzed and in a condition called locked-in syndrome. He could only move his left eyelid. For my part, I would have preferred to have died instantly than to have suffered what Mr. Bauby suffered. But we don't always get to choose, and to his credit he seems to have made the best of his situation. He did write this book after all, but on
Apr 06, 2014 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
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 t ...more
Greta G
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Locked-in-syndrome: totally paralyzed, unable to speak, but completely conscious.
I find it hard to imagine a condition that's worse than this one.
People who suffer a stroke, are at a risk to suffer from this condition (luckily, mostly not this bad).
Is there still dignity in a life like this?

The writer of this memoir, suffered from this condition, and was only able to move one eye. His left eye.
Needless to say this was a powerful read. Its popularity is partl
After suffering a catastrophic cerebro-vascular stroke, Jean-Dominique Bauby wakes up with a rare condition known as ‘locked in’ syndrome. Reduced to only being able to move his left eyelid to communicate, he takes us through his days following the event and his struggle to regain his identity.

I’ve wanted to read this for a long time, but have never felt in the right frame of mind to read it. I work within neurosciences, and a lot of our patients have either had strokes or have some other form
Mar 26, 2008 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
Aug 24, 2008 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 40s 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
Steven Godin
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ou ...more
Mar 05, 2008 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
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of the best short memoirs i ever read

Shows the multifacetes of the human condition
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an literary treasure! The utter sadness of this author’s condition is magnificently juxtaposed to this heart warming memoir. Jean-Do, as his loved ones called him, has written an unbelievably upbeat and often humorous recollection of memorable events revisited during his most devastating period of life.

Once the editor in chief of Elle magazine, and a very high profile socialite in Paris, his magnificent mind is now relegated to a whirlwind of thoughts and anecdotes told in a most painfully
Jul 12, 2011 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
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
This was a difficult read with regards to subject matter, but not when it comes to writing style. Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor of the French edition of “Elle” magazine, was paralyzed after a huge stroke. It’s amazing to me that he dictated this book letter by letter by blinking one eyelid, the only part of his body that wasn’t paralyzed. The fact that he managed to keep his brain engaged and alive given his situation is a miracle. This book is heartbreaking, insightful, and so uplifti ...more
Jonathan K
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
For all those unfamiliar with this true story, it evokes an array of emotions.:sadness, curiosity and appreciation for life among them. Beautifully written, it engages at a deep level sad that it is. It's difficult to fathom how someone completely paralyzed, unable to speak, move or gesture could compose such a memoir. Fortunately the award winning film lived up to the story. A quick read, it's worth adding to your list if for no other reason than to remind us that we should appreciate each mome ...more
May 28, 2011 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
Timothy Urges
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

More than an alphabet, it is a hit parade in which each letter is placed according to the frequency of its use in the French language.

Imagine being incapable of movement or speech and finding the only way to communicate is by blinking your left eye. Jean-Dominique Bauby wrote The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, via a transcriber after suffering a major stroke, one blink at a time.

The only thing Bauby has left is his mind, so he uses it.

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
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is simply beautiful. I wish my French was still good enough to read the original version, but this was still an incredible translation.

It reads more like a series of vignettes, and Bauby's writing is just gorgeous. This is a quick read--it's under 200 pages, and the text itself doesn't take up much of the page--but it is incredibly emotionally impactful.
Jan 30, 2009 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
Jan 23, 2011 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
Debbie "DJ"
May 23, 2014 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. ...more
Peter Heinrich
Jun 28, 2012 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
Ana-Maria Bujor
Nov 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoirs
This book is unique. Having read it immediately after Viktor E Frankl's Man search for meaning, it connected perfectly. It shows how people can face the worst possible things and still maintain their love, interests, and even sense of humor. This book is a triumph in itself through the manner in which it was written, as the author painstakingly signalled each letter to a patient assistant by only using his eyelid. But this little book is also really good and quick read - a collection of daily ev ...more
Brittany McCann
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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
Christina Ramos
Jun 28, 2011 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
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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

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