The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly

by Jean-Dominique Bauby

The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly CoverI will admit to the unique method of construction of The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly––being dictated by an almost-fully-paralyzed author after his stroke using only a series of winks––being one of my initial attractions to the book. As extraordinary as this is of its own merit, the story itself is well-written and heart-felt, speaking on a topic that few have experienced and even fewer are able to communicate.

What stood out most while reading this story was the author’s use of imagery. The meanings behind the titular diving-bell and butterfly seemed self-evident when starting, but both bells and insects cropped up from time to time throughout the story. When discussing how trapped he felt, it was diving-bells and cocoons; when it came to the exuberant places his mind went, the descriptions turned to bell-shaped flowers and fluttering butterflies. (Of course, I may be reading too much into this, learning that the original title involved a scaphadre or deep-sea diver, rather than diving-bell.)

The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly, above and beyond anything else I have ever read, is something that I believe everyone should read at least once in his or her lifetime. I concede that the story will not speak to everyone as it did to me but, being such a short jaunt with such a high reward, I see no excuse not to taste of its splendors when given the chance. I plan to revisit it from time to time, to remind myself not to take life, or those around me, for granted.