The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the memoir of a man afflicted by locked-in syndrome, a state of virtually total paralysis that leaves the victim, in the author's own words, "like a mind in a jar."
In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young childen, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem. After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book.
By turns wistful, mischievous, angry, and witty, bearing full witness to his determination to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to in his body, keeping in touch with himself and the life around him. He writes of the routine of his care in the hospital, and of the nurses, therapists, and physicians who assist him in his struggle to confront and come to terms with his staggering disability. Unfortunately, Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after French publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. This book is a lasting testament to life
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly has already been adopted as required reading in courses taught in the Department of Human Development at California State University-Hayward and in other universities across the United States.
Praise for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
"A book of surpassing beauty, a testament to the freedom and vitality and delight of the human mind, even when it is shut in the direst of physiological prisons... No one with 'locked-in' syndrome has ever been able to communicate, with any fullness, what life 'inside' is like, and it is nearly miraculous that now, one blink at a time, Jean-Dominique Bauby managed to convey such an account."
"To read this most extraordinary of narratives is to discover the luminosity within a courageous man's mind. His incomparable final gift to us is a heartbreaking and yet glorious testament to the wrenching beauty of the human spirit."
--Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D.
"One of the great books of the century... You read this book at one go, so gripping is this voyage to the inner heart and mind of a man for whom nothing else is left."
--Financial Times (London)
Jean-Dominique Bauby was born in France in 1952. He attended school in Paris. After working as a journalist for a number of years, Bauby became the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine in Paris in 1991.
On December 8, 1995 he had a stroke which left him with the condition known as locked-in syndrome. Bauby died on March 9, 1997. He was the father of two children, Theophile and Celeste.