Monday, November 30, 2009

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

In this heartbreakingly honest memoir Jean-Dominique, former editor of Elle magazine in France, writes of his thoughts and memories during the course of time that he is trapped within his own body.

In 1995 Jean suffered a stroke that left him with 'locked-in syndrome' which essentially traps a person within their own body. He could not move, could not speak, and had no control over his body. His brain was fully functioning though and this is how this book came about.

How is the possible? Well, Jean did have control over one part of his body- his left eye. And by blinking each time someone guessed a correct letter to what he was trying to say he stated his memoir letter by letter, blink by blink.

The language used in this book is powerful and allows you to realize that although most people would state that this man was a vegetable, more or less, he still had a fully functional brain. The book is short, just over 100 pages, but I find I can't critique that aspect.

This man could not talk and yet he managed to blink out over 100 pages of a memoir. Over 100 pages of memories he finds himself dwelling on, over 100 pages of his feelings of loneliness and death now that his former life is dead, and I think it's an amazing feat.

Take any person and have them try to tell an entire story letter by letter and I doubt it would be very long. Despite that I still feel it was beautifully written although sad. I don't think I could continue living if I was in his position and I credit him for giving doctors a chance to see inside the mind of someone with locked in syndrome.

It's worth the read if only to take a moment to appreciate the life you have, even if at times you think it's not quite right.

Jean-Domonique died two days after the publication of this book from pneumonia but his life lives on in the pages of this brief memoir and the film adaptation of it.


  1. That looks way cool and interesting!

  2. Very cool review - I hadn't read the book, but I absolutely loved this movie!

    ...just found your blog, which is also very cool. I'm following now. Looking forward to reading what you have to say...



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