The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly (Jean-Dominique Bauby)

“The diary of Jean-Dominique Bauby who, with his left eyelid (the only surviving muscle after a massive stroke) dictated a remarkable book about his experiences locked inside his body. A masterpiece and a bestseller in France, it is now a major motion picture directed by Julian Schnabel. On 8 December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby suffered a massive stroke and slipped into a coma. When he regained consciousness three weeks later, the only muscle left functioning was in his left eyelid although his mind remained as active and alert as it had ever been. He spent most of 1996 writing this book, letter by letter, blinking as an alphabet was repeatedly read out to him. ‘The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly’ was published in France on Thursday 6th March 1997. It was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. And then, three days later, he died. ‘The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly’, which records Bauby’s lonely existence, is probably the most remarkable book about the triumph of the human spirit, the ability to invent a life for oneself in the most appalling of circumstances, that you will ever read. It has now been made into a captivating film, directed by Julian Schnabel and starring Mathieu Amalric, which was the winner of the award for Best Director at Cannes and nominated for the Palm d’Or.”  Nielsen Book Data Online

This synopsis says it all except that it truly is a remarkable book that, whilst recognising Bauby’s condition (Locked-In Syndrome), really makes you feel glad to be alive.  He  muses on life, love and relationships and how he has gone from being Editor-in-Chief of Elle Magazine in Paris to being in this state of near-complete paralysis.   Bauby touchingly compares his new situation with that of his father who is in his eighties and quite infirm himself.

The book cover shown here is a couple of stills from the film (in French with subtitles) which is, as many French films are, filmed beautifully with an almost ethereal quality to it.  Well worth viewing on DVD…

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Author: Berkhamsted School Library

Main aims for Berkhamsted School Library • to provide a central resource for the whole school curriculum • to encourage an ethos of enquiry and discovery • to assist pupils in becoming confident and independent learners • to develop research and information skills throughout the school • to offer resources which enrich cultural values and experiences for pupils, as well as have a role in their recreational life and promote reading for pleasure as a lifelong activity

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