Sunday, May 08, 2005

Breaking Out of the Cocoon

Imagine the unimaginable if you will.

You are completely paralysed. You cannot speak and the only part of your body you can move by yourself is one of your eyelids. Yet your mind is as sharp as ever and as you lie on your hospital bed, you are all too aware of the world around you and your condition.

This is what happened to Jean-Dominique Bauby, who tells his story in The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly.

Yes, you read that right. Bauby dictated his story letter by letter, blinking as the letter he wants is read out from a chart by his bed.

How hard must that have been - mentally composing each passage, and having to hold it in his head, a flood of words that can only drip one letter at a time.

Bauby was the editor in chief of Elle magazine, and suffered a massive stroke at the age of 42 which left him trapped inside his body with "locked-in syndrome". He died two years later.

His writing is often moving, sometimes surprisingly humourous, but never self-pitying as he describes the hospital routines and his visitors, revisits his past and sheds the cocoon of his useless body to allow his mind free flight.

"You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still- sleeping face. You can build castles in spain, steal the Golden fleece, realize your childhood dreams and adult ambition."

And yes ... if this poor soul with one working eyelid can write a book this good, what excuse do the rest of us have?

(Book was one of my cheapy purchases at Times warehouse sale and is promised to Saras who first told me about it.)


Marita Paige said...

We often put off what we can do now till later, thinking there's always later. Sometimes, later will not come. Thank you for brining Jean's book to light. I think I'll go search for a copy for myself.

savante said...

Glad to have someone out there ( in Malaysia anyway ) who loves books too! In the midst of reading a cute lil book titled The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon.


bibliobibuli said...

Marita - that's so true ...

Hi savante - nice to meet another bookaholic. Your website looks great fun and I will go back and read. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is so cleverly written ... you get right inside the head of someone with Asperger's.