My favorite scenes tend to be messy ones. In Jean-Dominique Bauby's wee book of essays The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the tenth chapter ("The Photo") offers another such, as the author describes his Father's apartment in Paris:

All around us, a lifetime's clutter has accumulated; his room calls to mind one of those old persons' attics whose secrets only they can know — a confusion of old magazines, records no longer played, miscellaneous objects. Photos from all the ages of man have been stuck into the frame of a large mirror. There is Dad, wearing a sailor suit and playing with a hoop before the Great War; my eight-year-old daughter in riding gear; and a black-and-white photo of myself on a miniature-golf course. I was eleven, my ears protruded, and I looked like a somewhat simpleminded schoolboy. Mortifying to realize that at that age I was already a confirmed dunce.

Bauby's prose is compact, poetic in image and energy. There's a reason for that: he wrote it painstakingly, signaling letter-by-letter via blinks of his left eyelid. A massive stroke transformed him within moments: from an active forty-something fashion-magazine editor into a mind trapped inside an almost-inert body — a butterfly in a diving bell. And yet, he often manages to soar ... and to convey that glorious freedom through his writing. An ancient Stoic philosopher would have been proud.

(translation into English by Jeremy Leggatt; many thanks to friend Lila for recommending this book to me!)

TopicLiterature - TopicLife - 2007-02-23

(correlates: DangerousSelves, FlyingEagle, MysteriesVersusSecrets, ...)