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The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly

Jean-Dominique Bauby

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Summary

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (original French title: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon) is a memoir by journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby. It describes his life before and after suffering a massive stroke that left him with locked-in syndrome.

On December 8, 1995, Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine, suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. He awoke 20 days later, mentally aware of his surroundings, but physically paralyzed with what is known as locked-in syndrome, with the only exception of some movement in his head and eyes. His right eye had to be sewn up due to an irrigation problem. The entire book was written by Bauby blinking his left eyelid, which took ten months (four hours a day). Using partner assisted scanning, a transcriber repeatedly recited a French language frequency-ordered alphabet (E, S, A, R, I, N, T, U, L, etc.), until Bauby blinked to choose the next letter. The book took about 200,000 blinks to write and an average word took approximately two minutes. The book also chronicles everyday events for a person with locked-in syndrome. These events include playing at the beach with his family, getting a bath, and meeting visitors while in hospital at Berck-sur-Mer. On March 9, 1997, two days after the book was published, Bauby died of pneumonia.

Genre

Status

Autobiography

On Loan

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