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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In the blink of an eye

I woke at 5.30 this morning after a really restless night, so instead of lying their frustratedly trying to get back asleep, I grumpily started work on a book I've had beside my bed for a few weeks. Having just read this book the whole way through, I don't feel I can ever be grumpy, or complain about anything ever again.

The book is called The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly, written by the former editor-in-chief of French Elle, Jean-Dominique Bauby. In December 1995, Bauby suffered a debilitating stroke that left him utterly paralysed with a condition known as 'locked-in' syndrome. The only movement he could make was with his left eyelid, and through a laborious system of blinks, he dictated this remarkable, profoundly moving account of his life as a 'locked-in' patient. Bauby describes the condition as like having your body trapped and held down under a giant diving-bell, while at the same time your mind retains the ability to flutter like a butterfly.

The words 'life-affirming' and 'inspiring' cannot even begin to describe the effect this book has on the reader. Through his insightful, often funny, often unbearably sad prose, Bauby (who died in 1997) will be able to make you fall on your knees in weeping, grovelling gratitude for being able to even fall on your knees, or even swallow your own spit. Without any self-pity, or preachy, Tuesdays with Morrie-esque sentimentality, Bauby will forcefully remind you just how so very, very blessed you are to be able to go about the routine things in your life, for good and for bad.
The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly will - should - encourage you to live the life you want, to take chances, to not take anything for granted, and to not miss out on any of life's opportunities, no matter how massive or how insignificant you might think them to be. Reflecting on his lost chances by reference to a racing bet he never placed on a sure thing, Bauby says that, from his current vantage point, life looks like "a race whose result we know beforehand, but in which we fail to bet on the winner".

The book had been made into a movie directed by Julian Schnabel, which will be released next year, and which understandably has attracted attention as an Oscar darkhorse. Please, please read this book. It literally shook me to my core with its message that your entire life could be gone in the blink of an eye.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Has anyone who work with Jean-Claude Bauby at Elle written about him prior to his massive stroke? Did he turn into a fabulous person after the stoke? Did people see the courage, humor and grace when he was supposedly at the top of his game? I am curious.