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Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I just realized that I never got around to writing a review of this amazing book!
I saw the movie over the summer and was so moved by the story that I immediately hopped online and purchased a copy of the book it is based on.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the real life personal narrative of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor of ELLE magazine in France.
Jean-Do, as he is called by his friends, suffered a stroke which left him completely paralyzed head to toe...except for his left eyelid. Both the book and the movie describe his thoughts and experiences as he comes to terms with his tragic condition.
The story itself, and the events described, are seriously profound; but the real magic of the story comes through understanding how the book was written.
Jean-Dominique wrote the book himself, after suffering this so called "locked-in-syndrome." He did this with the aid of an assistant who would recite the alphabet, beginning with the most frequently used letters, and Jean-Do would blink when she came to the letter he wanted to use. He would compose and memorize entire passages of his book at a time, until he could recite them to the scribe.
Knowing that every single letter of the book was painstakingly blinked out by Jean-Dominique Bauby causes one to literally hang on every word. He died only days after it's publication in France.
It isn't a long book; an average reading could probably read the whole thing in two or three hours; but it is definitely a book that is so profound that it will cause you to view life from a completely different perspective.
I liked the book and the film equally, but for different reasons. I highly recommend them both.

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