Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: The Book

After hearing about the film (see previous post), I thought it only proper to visit the inspiration behind the film, and I headed to the bookstore to pick up a copy of Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I finished the short, 131-page paperback translated from French to English in a little over an hour, dog-earing pages where Bauby's eloquent insightfulness moved me.

While Bauby's dismal situation would cause one to expect a tear-jerker, and tears did well up from time to time, I cried a lot less than I thought I would. Bauby does not spend a lot of time pitying himself or his situation. Instead, the book is a compilation of all that is going on in his mind throughout the course of his time at the hospital. As to be expected, there is a lot of reflection on the past, memories, his thoughts on the people at the hospital, what he sees, feels, thinks, what he misses the most, his interactions with his children, and sometimes insightful and humorous reflections on his condition.

When his son asks him to play hangman, Bauby aches to tell him that "I have enough on my plate playing quadriplegic. But my communication system disqualifies repartee: the keenest rapier grows dull and falls flat when it takes several minutes to thrust it home. By the time you strike, even you no longer understand what had seemed so witty before you started to dictate it, letter by letter. So the rule is to avoid impulsive sallies. It deprives conversation of its sparkle, all those gems you bat back and forth like a ball-and I count this forced lack of humor one of the great drawbacks of my condition."

Although his body was trapped in the diving bell, his eloquent memoir shows that his mind was indeed as active as a glorious butterfly.

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