Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly

Both my brother and mom recommended that I read Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.  Bauby had a stroke and was almost completely paralyzed; all he was able to move was his left eyelid.  And so he did the impossible: he managed to write a book about his experiences being locked inside his body. Bauby's speech therapist, Sandrine, is the one who set up his means of communicating with the world.  She laid out the alphabet with the letters in order depending on their frequency of use within the French language; you read off the alphabet and Bauby blinks when you get to the letter he wants.  Through this labourous process, Bauby was able to write this book with the help of an editor, Claude Mendibil.  While the premise was very interesting, I admit I was somewhat skeptical: would the book be as good as my family made it out to be?

The answer was a resounding "yes."  Despite his condition, Bauby makes the best of his situation.  Sure, at times he is angry, or sad at what can no longer be.  But as he says, "I am alive, I can think, and no one has the right to deny me these two realities." His attitude brought to mind an essay I recently read by David Garrett on excuses for writing; Bauby was clearly one of the people, like T.I. and Bruce Dickinson, who don't make excuses and accomplish amazing things in life.  Things that many of us think we "don't have time for."

Bauby's observations and memories really pull you along, making The Diving Bell and the Butterfly a hard book to put down.  His writing is beautiful, but even more beautiful is the sense of appreciation for life that the book instills in you after reading it.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a short book (I managed to read it in under three hours).  But it really is the type of book that everyone should read.  While I do not yet own a copy, I am hoping to get one: this is the book I want on hand to reread if I should ever feel hopeless and depressed because it will make me appreciate that things aren't as bad as they may seem, and that you can always make the best of your lot in life.

No comments: