The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean Dominique Bauby.

Bauby, experiences a stroke at the age of 43. He is in the prime of his life, on the editorial staff at Elle and has two small children. After waking 20 days later, he could only blink his left eyelid. Suffering what is called locked-in-syndrome he dictates this novel through blinking this eye. The beauty of this manuscript is its simplicity. The everyday of life and the importance of little things are lyrically described with precise minimalism ‘Céleste (his daughter) cradles my head in her bare arms, covers my forehead with noisy kisses and says over and over, “You’re my dad, you’re my dad,” as if in incantation’. The search for meaning and the desire to be remembered are poignantly described as the small things take on importance “My nostrils quiver with pleasure as they inhale a robust odour – intoxicating to me, but one most mortals cannot abide.” It was thought at the time of writing he might improve. He died suddenly two days after the French publication of this book, at the age of 45. He ironically was reading the Count of Monte Cristo – literature’s first locked-in-syndrome character – just before his stroke. Reading his story is at times unbearably sad as he is weighed down by the diving-bell – his earthly body. At other times, it is incredibly uplifting, as his butterfly – all his imaginative thoughts – land on what it is to be human.

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