The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
|Publisher||Éditions Robert Laffont|
|March 6, 1997|
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (original French title: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon) is a memoir by journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby. It describes what his life is like after suffering a massive stroke that left him with locked-in syndrome. It also details what his life was like before the stroke.
On December 8, 1995, Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine, suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. He awoke 20 days later, mentally aware of his surroundings, but physically paralyzed with what is known as locked-in syndrome, with the only exception of some movement in his head and eyes. His right eye had to be sewn up due to an irrigation problem. The entire book was written by Bauby blinking his left eyelid, which took ten months (four hours a day). Using partner assisted scanning, a transcriber repeatedly recited a French language frequency-ordered alphabet (E, S, A, R, I, N, T, U, L, etc.), until Bauby blinked to choose the next letter. The book took about 200,000 blinks to write and an average word took approximately two minutes. The book also chronicles everyday events for a person with locked-in syndrome. These events include playing at the beach with his family, getting a bath, and meeting visitors whilst in hospital at Berck-sur-Mer.
The French edition of the book was published on March 7, 1997. It received excellent reviews, sold the first 25,000 copies on the day of publication, reaching 150,000 in a week. It went on to become a number one bestseller across Europe. Its total sales are now in the millions. On March 9, 1997, two days after the book was published, Bauby died of pneumonia.
In 2007 the book was adapted into a feature film of the same name, directed by Julian Schnabel, written by Ronald Harwood and starring Mathieu Amalric as Bauby. Julian Schnabel won best director that year at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2008 for directing, cinematography, editing and writing. It would go on to win numerous international awards, including a BAFTA for adapted screenplay, and Golden Globes for best foreign language film and best director.
While Bauby was still alive, French director Jean-Jacques Beineix made a 25-minute film, "Assigné à résidence" (or "House Arrest"), that captured Bauby in his paralysed state, and the process of the book's composition.
- Thomas, Rebecca. Diving Bell movie's fly-away success, BBC, February 8, 2008. Accessed June 5, 2008.
- Cannes Film Festival Awards 2007: Alternative Film Guide
- Academy Awards Database
- BAFTA Awards Database
- HFPA Awards Database However, Hollywood being what it is, in the film version of the book, it is Bauby's erstwhile partner of 10 years, Sylvie de la Rouchefoucauld (in the book, he refers to her coldly as 'the mother of my two children') who was given the role of the luminous Madonna, and not Florence Ben Sadoun, who was his companion for three years, the woman who sat by his side, and who held his hand when he died.
- "Cargo Films, Société de J-J Beineix" (in French). Retrieved 2008-04-24.
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