In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the 43-year-old editor of French Elle, suffered a massive stroke that left him permanently paralyzed, a victim of “locked in syndrome.” Once known for his gregariousness and wit, Bauby now finds himself imprisoned in an inert body, able to communicate only by blinking his left eye. The miracle is that in doing so he was able to compose this stunningly eloquent memoir.In a voice that is by turns wistful and mischievous, angry and sardonic, Bauby gives us a celebration of the liberating power of consciousness: what it is like to spend a day with his children, to imagine lying in bed beside his wife, to conjure up the flavor of delectable meals even as he is fed through at tube. Most of all, this triumphant book lets us witness an indomitable spirit and share in the pure joy of its own survival.
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We've all got our idiosyncrasies when it comes to writing--a special chair we have to sit in, a certain kind of yellow paper we absolutely must use. To create this tremendously affecting memoir, Jean-Dominique Bauby used the only tool available to him--his left eye--with which he blinked out its short chapters, letter by letter. Two years ago, Bauby, then the 43-year-old editor-in-chief of Elle France, suffered a rare stroke to the brain stem; only his left eye and brain escaped damage. Rather than accept his "locked in" situation as a kind of death, Bauby ignited a fire of the imagination under himself and lived his last days--he died two days after the French publication of this slim volume--spiritually unfettered. In these pages Bauby journeys to exotic places he has and has not been, serving himself delectable gourmet meals along the way (surprise: everything's ripe and nothing burns). In the simplest of terms he describes how it feels to see reflected in a window "the head of a man who seemed to have emerged from a vat of formaldehyde."From the Publisher:
"Was it Hemingway who defined grace under pressure? No matter who said it, the words have never been more pertinent than in speaking of this heroic book, dictated against the worst imaginable adversities. Although every word cost the author a superhuman effort, the prose is not sickbed telegraphese but rather as light as the sprightliest humor, as pungent as the taste of cooking apricots, as vigorous as the step of a young man setting out on a first date. Read this book and fall back in love with life."
-- Edmund White
"To read this most extraordinary of narratives is to discover the luminosity within a courageous man's mind. Locked into his own world but not locked out of ours, Jean-Dominique Bauby explores images, memories and an entire landscape of fantasy and love. His incomparable final gift to us is a heartbreaking and yet glorious testament to the wrenching beauty of the human spirit."
-- Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D.
"As riveting as a narrative from an explorer of deep space, this communication from a mind imprisoned in an unresponsive body is remarkable for its utter lack of self-pity or sentimentality. Though 'locked in' the author's consciousness freely roams through worlds of memory, fantasy, sense, impression, and contemplation of the human condition. An unforgettable read."
-- Andrew Weil
"This heartbreaking story by a uniquely gifted writer is about transforming pain into creativity, human despair into literary miracle."
-- Elie Wiesel
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