Jean-Dominique Bauby

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search
Jean-Dominique Bauby "dictating" his memoir to Claude Mendibil

Jean-Dominique Bauby (French: [ʒɑ̃ dɔminik bobi]; 23 April 1952 – 9 March 1997) was a well-known French journalist, author and editor of the French fashion magazine ELLE.[1] He had two children with Sylvie de la Rochefoucauld, a son named Theophile and a daughter named Celeste.[2][3]

On 8 December 1995 at the age of 43, Bauby suffered a massive stroke. When he woke up twenty days later, he found he was entirely speechless; he could only blink his left eyelid. Called locked-in syndrome, this is a condition wherein the mental faculties remain intact but most of the body is paralyzed. In Bauby's case his mouth, arms, and legs were paralyzed, and he lost 60 pounds (27 kg) in the first 20 weeks after his stroke.



Despite his condition, he wrote the book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by blinking when the correct letter was reached by a person slowly reciting the alphabet over and over again using a system called partner assisted scanning. Bauby composed and edited the book entirely in his head, and dictated it one letter at a time. To make dictation more efficient, Bauby's interlocutor, Claude Mendibil, listed the letters in accordance with their frequency in the French language. The book was published in France on 6 March 1997. Bauby died suddenly from pneumonia three days after the French publication of his book,[4][5] and is buried in a family grave at the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France.[6]


In 2007, painter-director Julian Schnabel released a film version of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It starred actor Mathieu Amalric as Bauby. Critically acclaimed, the film received many awards and nominations including the Best Director Prize at Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film & Best Director, as well as 4 Academy Award nominations.

The script written for the film has been criticized by Bauby's closest circle of friends as not faithful to events and biased in favor of his ex-partner.[7] His late-life partner Florence Ben Sadoun claims to have been a faithful companion, visiting him frequently at Berck-sur-Mer, the hospital where he lived during his final days. Bauby notes her visits in his memoir. [8] Sylvie de la Rochefoucauld also claims to have visited him frequently at the hospital.


French science fiction author Bernard Werber's novel L'Ultime Secret is known to be inspired by Bauby.


  1. ^ Denis Boyles on EuroPress on National Review Online
  2. ^ `Locked-in' quadriplegic shares life
  3. ^ Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  4. ^ Thomas, Rebecca. Diving Bell movie's fly-away success, BBC, February 8, 2008. Accessed June 5, 2008.
  5. ^ "In the Blink of an Eye", by Thomas Mallon, review of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, New York Times, June 15, 1997. Retrieved April 8, 2008.
  6. ^ Q and A - New York Times
  7. ^ Arnold, Beth,, "The truth about The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," February 23, 2008
  8. ^ Di Giovanni, Janine, The Guardian UK, "The real love story behind The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", 30 November 2008

External links