Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

"Write about what you know" is a maxim which has been taught to writers for as long as there have been writers to teach - or at least as long as there have been creative writing classes. Of course, the human mind's capacity for imagination and invention is much broader than this.

Without imagination, The Lord of the Rings would have been a treatise on Anglo Saxon and Nordic languages and Hannibal Lecter would have been considerably more mildly mannered.

There are some things, though, which it must be incredibly hard to imagine - like how would you cope if you lost almost all physical capacity while retaining control of your mind. This was the fate of Jean-Dominique Bauby.

The former editor-in-chief of French Elle had his career dramatically cut short by a stroke which left him with Locked-In Syndrome, unable to communicate other than blinking with his left eyelid.

For many people, this would be - and is - unbearable. Bauby responded by producing this beautiful book, dictated letter by letter, which is in part memoir and in part description of life with his condition.
The book is a - surprisingly - joyful read which is a testament to the stoicism of Bauby and the ability of the human spirit to raise itself in even the most tragic of circumstances.



Raybeard said...

Another one for my 'must read' list, then. I certainly liked a lot the film of a couple of years ago.

oneexwidow said...

Whereas I have not seen the film - although I added it my Amazon wishlist earlier!

Mind Of Mine said...

I had never heard of this book before, but it is going on my reading list.

Raybeard said...

Andrew, from what I've heard about the book it was yet another of those which was regarded as 'unfilmable' (yawn!) - but by removing the first person narrative, and making it an observation on the invalided lead (the enviably good-looking Mathieu Amalric) it's a fine film in its own right, at least in mine and several others' opinions. As so often, reading the literary source of a film before seeing the latter almost invariably means that the film maker's ideas don't live up to what one's own imagination had created.