The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Bauby, J.D. 2002
We’ve all got our idiosyncrasies when it comes to writing—a special chair we have to sit in, a certain kind of yellow paper we absolutely must use. To create this tremendously affecting memoir, Jean-Dominique Bauby used the only tool available to him—his left eye—with which he blinked out its short chapters, letter by letter. Two years ago, Bauby, then the 43-year-old editor-in-chief of Elle France, suffered a rare stroke to the brain stem; only his left eye and brain escaped damage. Rather than accept his “locked in” situation as a kind of death, Bauby ignited a fire of the imagination under himself and lived his last days—he died two days after the French publication of this slim volume—spiritually unfettered. In these pages Bauby journeys to exotic places he has and has not been, serving himself delectable gourmet meals along the way (surprise: everything’s ripe and nothing burns). In the simplest of terms he describes how it feels to see reflected in a window “the head of a man who seemed to have emerged from a vat of formaldehyde.”

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