Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (copy)

I was thrilled to hear The Diving Bell and the Butterfly movie won two Golden Globe awards: Best Director and Best Foreign Film. I had just finished the book and was in awe of the author’s determination and style.

Jean-Dominique Bauby, Editor in Chief of French Elle magazine, had a massive stroke December 8, 1995. After three weeks in a coma and another month spent in a drug haze, he slowly began to realize he could not escape his hospital bed. He felt pain, but wasn’t sure whether it was “burning hot or ice cold.” To ward off the feeling he instinctively stretched, but his movement was less than an inch. Bauby was experiencing locked-in syndrome.

Bauby equated his post-stroke situation as being locked in a case, or as the title suggest, in a diving bell. He was breathing air and could move his neck a little, but the rest of his body was weighted down by the water.

The word butterfly in Bauby’s title is a symbol representing his imagination. He used his mind to escape the diving bell at every opportunity. “There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court. You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still-sleeping face. You can build castles in Spain, steal the Golden Fleece, discover Atlantis, realize your childhood dreams and ambitions.”

Most victims of stroke are functional after months of rehabilitation; unfortunately, locked-in syndrome patients take years to learn the art of breathing over their vocal cords for speech. Bauby had the capability to grunt, but being a stylish well-educated man, he desired a form of communication more appropriate with his demeanor.

Easy enough, a blink pattern of once for yes and twice for no, was established during Bauby’s second month of recovery. His left eyelid, the only voluntary movement from his face, began to become the portal for all communication. Next, an alphabet system with the most common letters at the beginning was recited to Bauby, and he blinked at the correct letter.

Now, here is the most incredible part; Bauby wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly with his left eyelid! He would compose paragraphs during the morning, memorizing three or four, and then blink them back to his amanuensis. This memoir is a reminder; lives do change in a blink of an eye.

14 comments:

April said...

Wow! What an amazing story!! Very inspirational uplifting. I will definitely have to keep my eyes out for this one!

Maggie said...

April, it was written in six months and published in 1996. The copy I read was a translation done in 1997, but with the movie they probably have new release books. It takes all of one night to read; sadly, Bauby died two months after it was published. I'm dying to see the movie, now!

Iliana said...

I've had this book on my tbr list for some time. I really want to see the movie. I just can't imagine how they will translate something like this to film you know. I haven't even seen a preview.

Maggie said...

I've seen the trailer Iliana. It looks like one of the last chapters when he goes to the beach with his wife and kids, but you don't see him or his wheelchair. I'll have to wait for it to come on DVD. Not a look of arty films get to Como, Mississippi. :D

Maggie said...

Oops, look = lot

Paul said...

As a person who has had strokes I empathize. Mine were not this severe but they change your life,

Lisa said...

Thanks for sharing this, Maggie. I hadn't heard of it before your post. It sounds absolutely incredible. Hopefully the movie will not be a disappointment. It always makes me a little nervous to watch a film adaptation of a book that I have loved.

WorkingWords100 said...

Inspiring.

Bookfool said...

I just read about how he dictated the book by blinking and thought . . . ohmygosh, I'd go out of my mind trying to communicate by blinking. But, how cool is that? I've got to add that one to the wish list. Thanks, Maggie. :)

Bookfool said...

Pssst! I was laughing about that comment, "Not a lot of arty films get to Como, Mississippi." Did you know we no longer have a theater in Vicksburg AT ALL? We have to drive to Clinton to see a movie, now. Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Maggie said...

It is so scary Paul. One never knows when a stroke will occur. I'm sorry to hear you have experienced them and I hope your recovery time has been quick afterwards. Instead of writing a book, you write poetry. That's inspiring!

You know Lisa, we went to see No Country for Old Men and I was pleased with the Coen brothers' adaption. I think they hit it on the nail, but I promise you, I don't remember the ending. I have got to go back and read the last three chapters! Books to someone's interpretation is always a little risky.

Quick easy read WW100! Check it out!

Oh, no, Bookfool! The loss of a movie house is so major! We just love our local cinema, the Tobie, which is 7 miles north. I feel a little bad right now. I went on and on about No Country for Old Men with their staff, all family owned and operated, and they have it running this week. Um, I couldn't wait and went all the way to midtown Memphis to see it. Like I told Lisa, this will give me an opportunity to reread the end and watch it again! Hey, that rhymed! Man, but all the way to Vicksburg! Yuck! :P

Lesley said...

I have had a copy of this book for ages but have never read it. When I heard that a movie had been made, I knew I had to move it up on my list so I could watch the film, too. I can't quite remember where I first learned of this book ... I think perhaps it was So Many Books, So Little Time. Have you read that?

Diane said...

That is an incredible story - I hadn't heard of the man, the book or the movie . . . I'll check it out

Maggie said...

Lesley - It was published in 1997 and has probably done the rounds a couple of times, knowing it's a great word-of-mouth book. It really is a one day read and you will be the wiser afterwards. :)

I have not read Sara Nelson's book SMB,SLT. I read her weekly column in PW pretty regularly, though.

I hope you enjoy it, Diane. :)