Everybody's Reading

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Review by Dips Patel of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” by Jean-Dominique Bauby

I'm almost positive at some point someone has mentioned this book to you but at the risk of sounding/reading like an arrogantly condescending/patronising bore, I will summarize just in case you don’t know the story.

Bauby suffers a cerebrovascular seizure (which I think is like a massive and uber-severe stroke) and remains in a coma for nearly 3 weeks. Upon waking he finds himself left in the condition known as “Locked-In Syndrome” where he is fully aware mentally but is left with severely restricted physical ability, in his case acute head movement and the blinking of his left eye. The book is about his life before this event (or what he can remember), what he recollects of the event itself and his life thereafter and what it means and feels to him to live in this condition on a day-to-day basis.

The entire book is dictated by him blinking that left eye (he works with a language expert who devises a system where she reads out the letters of the alphabet, arranged according to frequency of use, and he blinks when she says the right one until the word is spelled out).

It's a very thin (not even 150 pages) but beautifully recounted memoir of a life which was hit by an almighty whopper of an event and the fact it's even in print is a towering testimony to not only the patience, support and love of his family and friends but the sheer will of Bauby who passed away within days of the book’s publication. The film that was made based on this book is also worth your time watching, quietly beautiful with an astonishing performance by Mathieu Amalric as Bauby.

About the reviewer
Dips Patel is a graduate in Graphic Design which means he can colour in without going over the lines and when he does he makes it look deliberate, cool and edgy. He much prefers fine art where the art of talking nonsense is finer still allowing him extremely moderate success in introducing his work to a wider audience. Hobbies include reading stuff, watching stuff, commendably misguided attempts at painting stuff and consuming copious amounts of coco pops, clementines, curries, cakes and cocktails, not all at the same time which is frowned upon in polite society.

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