The Diving-Bell & the Butterfly

by Jean-Dominique Bauby | Biographies & Memoirs |
ISBN: 1857027795 Global Overview for this book
Registered by lucycat of Hull, East Yorkshire United Kingdom on 1/23/2003
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by lucycat from Hull, East Yorkshire United Kingdom on Thursday, January 23, 2003
A really remarkable book, not only for the incredible way in which it was written, but also the beauty (and often wry humour) of the prose within.

This one'll be speeding off to Alison shortly - in fact I've just had to unseal the envelope again so I could get at the book for a couple of quotes I wanted to use!

'What demon could have induced people to line a whole room with orange fabric?'

'We had eaten an enjoyable lunch that day in the restaurant overlooking the race-track. The big dining room was frequented by gangsters in their Sunday suits, pimps, parolees and other shady characters who gravitate naturally to horse racing. Sated, we puffed greedily on long cigars and awaited the fourth race. In that hothouse atmosphere, criminal records bloomed like orchids all around us.'

Off it goes then, and Alison, hope you enjoy the book - it makes for a brief, enlightening and uplifting read.

Journal Entry 2 by chelseagirl from Faringdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom on Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Book arrived safely today, thanks Lucycat. Looking forward to reading it.

Journal Entry 3 by chelseagirl at on Friday, July 16, 2004
Release planned for Saturday, July 17, 2004 at BCUK 2004 Unconvention @ Apres Bar, Summerrow in Birmingham, England Controlled Releases.

Journal Entry 4 by chelseagirl from Faringdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom on Friday, July 16, 2004
Grrr, I've had this one for months and months and months and haven't got round to reading it yet ... it's so hard to read the RABCKs when I seem to have signed up for so many rays and rings!

Anyway, i found a paperback copy of this ion a charity shop last week so I'm going to let this one carry on with its BC journey. When i eventually get round to reading it I'll edit this post and add my thoughts.


I've dipped into my own copy of this now and then over the last few months and have finally finished it.

Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of the French Elle magazine and father to two young children, was left completely paralysed except for one eyelid when he suffered a massive stroke.

The book itself is an amazing accomplishment, and at times you have to remind yourself that the writer dictated it through the blinking of one eye, with a helper dictating the letters of the alphabet while Bauby painstakingly spelled out each word letter by letter.

What we have is a curious mix of observations on hospital life, the frustrations that Bauby suffers daily as he is locked in his body's prison, and recollections of his life before the stroke and paralysis. Parts of his writing are touching and moving, parts are uplifting but others I found didn't really grasp my attention - which is why it's taken me so long to get through this.

The most moving chapter for me is probably the one where Bauby recounts the day the stroke happened - an ordinary day filled with work and meetings and Beatles songs on the radio.
Bauby's words bring home just how precious life is, how short and fragile it is, and how we never know just when it will be snatched away from us:

"In the elevator strangers heap encouragement upon me and the Beatles launch into the finale of 'A Day in the Life'. The piano crashing down from the seventh floor. before it hits the ground I have time for one last thought: we'll have to cancel the play. In any case, we would have got there late. We'll go tomorrow night. Where could Theophile have got to? And I sink into a coma."

Overall, a fascinating work of art, the words of a dying man and a fitting farewell to a world Bauby was taken from far too soon.

Journal Entry 5 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Monday, July 19, 2004
Hi Lucycat & ChelseaGirl, 2 of my girlfriends from the Birmingham Unconvention...hold up, can a middle-aged white married man say that?? I saw this book in a charity shop recently, so v.pleased to find a BC copy :)

(28/07) Review to follow

"My head weighs a ton, and something like a giant invisible diving-bell holds my whole body prisoner"

I can't find the reference to the 'butterfly' but Bauby does mention the discipline he has to develop to train his mind, which flits about like a butterfly; he 'writes' this memoir by creating the words and sentences in his head then dictating 1 letter at a time using a code and only one eyelid. He stops himself from going mad with frustration and anger by living through his memories, and the memories of his senses, and the lives of his friends and family glimpsed through his narrowing world-view, as he slowly fades away.

This short book is a very brave legacy (for his children, for other sufferers?) and a tribute to the human spirit. He is at once uncompromising, but not self-pitying; episodic, through flash-backs to his pre-ALIS days, but controlled; poetic and full of imagery, but not overblown (he had to measure all his words and letters so carefully).

Thanks to LucyCat for sharing this with me

Journal Entry 6 by BookGroupMan at on Thursday, July 29, 2004
Release planned for Friday, July 30, 2004 at to another bookcrosser in n/a, n/a Controlled Releases.

Sent to frisquette, cos she was quite interested in the book at the Unconvention. Good to meet you and swiss_toni :)

Journal Entry 7 by frisquette from Nottingham, not specified not specified on Sunday, October 24, 2004
Finally got round to registering this book, and it is at the top of my TBR pile so it shouldn't be too long before I post a review.
As far as the butterfly is concerned, I always thought that referred to his eyelids batting away, dictating each letter. Hmm, I wonder if I can find out...

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