Monday, August 20, 2012

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Why I read it: Recommended by a friend.

Summary: The author, after suffering a massive stroke leaving him with locked-in syndrome, tells the story of life inside a lifeless body.

My Thoughts: I'm not qualified to review this book. I don't have enough of a vocabulary with which to describe the depths of emotions this book plumbs. But I have a few thoughts to share.

We've all thought about it, when faced with wheelchair-bound, voice-stilled unfortunates. What's it like? How do you cope with sudden, unexpected disabilities, inabilities? At what point does your mind accept you can't do what you used to do, or does it ever? Is it hell on earth?

Bauby tells us the story, one eyelid batting at a time (how he wrote the book, in a dictation code, letter by letter), and one can see that it is indeed hell.

But what got me about this tale is his particular past, his circumstance, his memories. He had lived a good life. He was the editor of the French magazine Elle. He had visited faraway places, met famous people, attended galas and parties. In short, the memories that ran through his head in the final days of his all-too-short life were good ones, or at least he had good thoughts to fall back on if he so chose to consider them.

What would it be like for someone not so fortunate in life? What if the person who had written this book had been abused as a child? had been born into a world of violence and hatred? never knew love? then ended up locked in with nothing but memories of pain and angst? Would that be an even deeper level of hell?

Requiescat in Pace, Jean-Do.

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