After 43 year old Jean-Dominique suffered massive stroke he was only left with the ability to blink his left eye. He was a victim of "locked-in syndrome" - aware and awake but unable to move or communicate because of complete paralysis. Then he wrote this book, choosing each letter of each word by blinking his eye.
It's a simple enough system. You read off the alphabet until, with a blink of my eye, I stop you at the letter to be noted.Bauby's alphabet was ordered differently than the traditional a,b,c. Rather, he used an order that began with the most frequently used letter and digressed to end with the least used letter. In French, this begins with e,s,e. The amount of effort that went into writing this memoir makes it even more powerful, poignant and unique.
The title for The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon) is an analogy Bauby uses for his condition. "A giant invisible diving bell holds [his] whole body prisoner... and [his] mind takes flight like a butterfly." While parts of this memoir are incredibly heartbreaking, the overall tone is hopeful. It is less a lament of Bauby's paralyzed state and more a celebration of the freedom his conscious mind offers. When reliving favorite moments of his past and creating alternate lives, Bauby uses rich descriptions that captures the power of imagination.
This is one of those books that makes you put your life in perspective and reconsider your priorities, both touching and life-affirming.
Publisher: Vintage, 1997