The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly is a book written by Jean-Dominique Bauby. It is about locked-in syndrome, an illness which the author suffers from following a stroke, which paralyses the body, and in his case only leaves his left eyelid functioning, through which he communicates letter by letter. To describe his illness, Bauby says "something like a giant invisible diving bell holds my whole body prisoner," but "my mind takes flight like a butterfly." Meaning, of course, that although he cannot move, he still has the power to think, and to travel all over the world in his mind.
The author uses the book to describe his travels which he has been on over the years, his "bedridden travel notes" as he calls them. He remembers his trip to Lourdes, where miracles were supposed to happen, and him saying that it would be dangerous for a man in perfect health to go there. "One miracle and he'd end up paralysed." He also tells us of his trip to Hong Kong, and then compares them both to the outings he can take now: being pushed in a wheelchair along the promenade next to the beach, near to the hospital. Even this he cannot do very often.Bauby
also tells the reader about simple things we take for granted. He has to try to get someone to turn on the television set for him, and then, with any luck, turn it off again after the programme is finished. He also tells us something about the characters of the doctor
s and nurse
s. We assume that all of these people look after Bauby the best they can, but he finds that some of them, rather than trying to decipher what he is saying, simply ignore him and walk out of the room!
At the end of the book, Bauby tells us of the events leading up to his stroke which left him paralysed. He is in the action of taking his son Theophile out for the day, when he suddenly feels ill and is forced to pull over. After he gets to the hospital, his last thought before he loses consciousness is what his son will do if anything happens to him.
One would think that this book would be quite depressing, considering its main character and author cannot move a muscle, but instead of dwelling on his helplessness, Bauby decides instead to forget about it, and let his mind take him on a journey through the most exciting points of his life. If he did not mention it, from the way he describes it you would never know that he was paralysed. The trips he describes are very vivid, but then I suppose he has a lot of time to think about his life, about other people, and about different places he has gone to. It is a credit to his perseverance that he has managed to write a book using only his left eyelid to blink out letters, and makes you think how easy you have it, despite any complaints you have about life in general.