The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby.jpg
Author Jean-Dominique Bauby
Country France
Language French
Genre Autobiography, Memoir
Publisher Éditions Robert Laffont
Publication date
March 6, 1997
ISBN 978-0-375-40115-2

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 while 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.[1][2]

Film adaptations[edit]

In 1997, Jean-Jacques Beineix directed a 27-minute television documentary, "Assigné à résidence" (released on DVD in the U.S. as "Locked-in Syndrome" with English subtitles), that captured Bauby in his paralyzed state, as well as the process of his book's composition.[3]

Artist/director Julian Schnabel's feature-film adaptation of the book was released in 2007, starring Mathieu Amalric as Bauby. The film was nominated for several international awards and won best director that year at the Cannes Film Festival[4][5][6][7]


External links[edit]

Reviews of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: