Ice Friday: Bauby’s “The Diving Bell”

Jean-Dominique Bauby’s tersely poetic memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, typed from the blinking of an eye, is harrowing and crystalline clear, moments chronicled by a man on the precipice of death:

I am fading away. Slowly but surely. Like the sailor who watches the home shore gradually disappear, I watch my past recede. My old life spurns within me, but more and more of it is reduced to the ashes of memory. IMG_4522I went to Paris and was unmoved by it. The streets were decked out in summer finery, but for me it was still winter, and what I saw through the ambulance window was just a movie background. Filmmakers call the process a “rear-scene projection,” with the hero’s car speeding along a road that unrolls behind him on a studio wall. Hitchcock films owe much of their poetry to the use of this process in its early, unperfected stages. IMG_4514My own crossing of Paris left me indifferent. Yet nothing was missing – housewives in flowered dresses and youths on roller skates, revving buses, messengers cursing on their scooters. The Place de l’Opera, straight out of a Dufy canvas. The treetops foaming like surf against the glass building fronts, wisps of clouds in the sky. Nothing was missing except me. I was elsewhere.

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