The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly


“The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly” by Jean-Dominique Bauby
(First published: 1997 / This edition: Harper Perennial 2008)
Taken with a fresh pot of coffee and flowers my mom got—with the help of the security guard

Far from such din, when blessed silence returns, I can listen to the butterflies that flutter inside my head.

I finished this book last night and I’m still feeling overwhelmed. It is a memoir. Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine. One day he had a massive stroke, and was diagnosed that he was suffering from the rare disease called “Locked-In Syndrome”. He was paralyzed, and he couldn’t swallow, eat, or even breathe without assistance. His mind was still working perfectly, fortunately, and he was only able to blink his left eyelid—which was how he “wrote” this book.

In the chapters he “rambles” on about things going on in his mind: the different doctors and nurses, the little joys he “makes” in the hospital to make himself more positive, his family, his colleagues, his favorite foods, how he hates Sundays at the hospital, traveling and places he wishes he had gone to, things he wishes he had done…

It’s a short book and he has a sense of humor, but it’s a pretty heavy read. It took me a while to get really into it, but then it (and I) got suddenly very emotional. He is such an inspiring and courageous man. He was a very powerful and intelligent man that ended up being literally “locked in” his own body, stuck with just his mind—and he was still able to find a way and had the motivation to convey his thoughts and feelings. He is proof that you can do anything if you have the will power and if you set your mind to it. Not to sound like a coach or anything, but reading this book made me realize how even more grateful and appreciating I need to be; how I should be more determined and motivated; how fortunate I am; how capable.

I highly recommend this book. It was also made into a film (which I have yet to watch) so you can check that out too. 🙂

He is very inspirational.

Be grateful. Be courageous and positive. Be full of love…and spread that love. 🙂


Here are my favorite lines from his memoir:

Far from such din, when blessed silence returns, I can listen to the butterflies that flutter inside my head. To hear them, one must be calm and pay close attention, for their wingbeats are barely audible. Loud breathing is enough to drown them out. This is astonishing: my hearing does not improve, yet I hear them better and better. I must have the ear of a butterfly. (p.104-105)


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