Sunday, 28 March 2010

A book a week in 2010: The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly

This book is a cheat. Bought hastily from Stanfords in Covent Garden because it was short. 140 pages short to be exact. I needed to cram in two books in two days because I'd fallen behind with one a week. I blame The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

What I hadn't anticipated is what a poignant, moving and lyrical book this is.

Jean-Dominique Bauby is the successful Editor of French Elle magazine. He lives an exciting and glamorous life in Paris. But on a visit to see his children, he is taken ill with a massive stroke.

When he awakes, he is in the Naval Hospital in Berck-sur-Mer, on the North coast of France near Calais. He discovers he is suffering from 'Locked-In Syndrome', almost total paralysis, with only the use of one eye to communicate with the world. The book - dictated through blinking out the letters to his editor Claude Mendibil - charts his inner battle to comes to terms with all that he has lost and his sensory escape into memory.

The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly is poetic, intensely moving, and the best cheat I've ever made.

The artist Julian Schnabel won Best Director at Cannes Film Festival with his interpretation of the book. I plan to watch it as soon as I can. Here's the trailer in the meantime.

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