Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of the French fashion magazine Elle. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a memoir of Bauby’s experience after he experienced a sudden and severe stroke and awoke weeks later only to find himself in what is called “locked in syndrome”. He had lost all physical control of his body and could not speak, only being able to move his left eyelid—however his mind and mental faculties were still intact. This memoir consists of Bauby’s brief and poignant reflections on his condition as well as his memories, imaginations, and dreams.
Bauby dictated his memoir by using his left eyelid—letter by letter. His assistant recited the alphabet over and over again until Bauby chose a letter by blinking his left eyelid once to signify “yes”. The finished product is a wonderful and moving memoir of Bauby’s experience, character, and skill of being able to move through the rest of his life with grace, irony, and poignancy, but without self-pity. It is a moving testimony to the persistence of spirit in the face of extreme physical disability.
One of the most frequent themes that is apparent in his memoir is the narration of his experience with the various stages of coping with his fate and disability. Bauby was clearly a man who loved life, and he gives us in his memoir a keen sense of his losses and also of his compensations for them through wit and imagination. The book has also been made into a movie. Both of which are available on Amazon.