Jean-Dominique Bauby (Jean-Do to his friends) wrote a whole book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by the arduous process of one blink for each letter. In French it’s called La Scaphandre et le Papillon. (I tried to upload a video clip of the film – which the boyf and I saw last night – but utterly failed: technology impossible to grasp.)
I love the word scaphandre and, with the help of my (English) dictionary I make the direct English translation manboat (or boatman) from the Greek andro (man) and scaphe (boat).
But, heavens, I MAT by dreaming and procrastinating and putting off writing by going for a walk and making cups of tea (herbal, natch) and wandering round my house and answering and sending emails and and and … and so many of these MATs are physical. Then, eventually, I sit down and type or handwrite sentences that have been building themselves in my head while I did everything else except write them down. How simple (and taken-for-granted) is that?
Bauby blinked his way from letter to letter to make the sentences that eventually made his book. He prepared the sentences early in the morning so that when Claude Mendibil arrived, and began reciting from a list of letters, he could blink when she reached the right letter and then again and then again until she said a word back to him. And so on and on and on. What extraordinary courage, tenacity, clarity, imagination and sheer human spirit. ‘The blink of an eye’ took Bauby months.
Go and see the film … or, if you’ve missed it – we nearly did – buy the book. Bauby’s beautiful, moving story of courage in the face of impossible odds, deserves our unblinking attention.