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August 12, 2020 | Rome, Italy

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly

By | 2018-03-21T18:28:39+01:00 December 25th, 2003|Recent Reviews|

By Jean-Dominque Bauby, translated by Jeremy Leggatt,

Fourth Estate, 1997. 144 pages.

Here’s a maudlin votive candle, or it seems for starters — and yet… Bauby, 43, editor-in-chief of French Elle, suffered a massive stroke in 1995, fell into a conscious coma and “dictated” this work by batting his left eyelid (think “My Left Foot”). Understatement and composure are its poignancy (“I would be the happiest of men if I could swallow the overflow of saliva endlessly flooding my mouth…”)

Bauby’s cool narrative is a homespun meditation on his “locked in” condition, family, love, and journalism. He attends to the details of his perdition like a great chef to a seminal meal. These are the sharp last thoughts of a broken earthling. He died, still unable to speak or move, in 1997.

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