Jean-Dominique Bauby

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

Jean-Dominique Bauby
Jean-Dominique Bauby "dictating" his memoir to Claude Mendibil
Bauby (left) in 1996, "dictating" his memoir to Claude Mendibil
Born(1952-04-23)23 April 1952
Paris, France
Died9 March 1997(1997-03-09) (aged 44)
Berck-sur-Mer, Nord-Pas de Calais, France
OccupationJournalist, editor, writer
Notable worksThe Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Early life and careerEdit

Bauby was born in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. He began his journalism career at Combat and then Le Quotidien de Paris. He received his first byline the day Georges Pompidou died in 1974. At age 28, he was promoted to editor-in-chief of the daily Le Matin de Paris, before becoming editor of the cultural section of Paris Match. He then joined the editorial staff of Elle.[4]


On 8 December 1995, at the age of 43, Bauby suffered a major 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 27 kilograms (60 lb) 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 7 March 1997. Bauby died suddenly from pneumonia two days after the publication of his book,[5][6] and he is buried in a family grave at the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France.[7]



Jean-Jacques Beineix directed a short documentary film entitled Assigné à résidence about Bauby's time at Berck-sur-Mer, which was released in 1997. The film features Bauby himself, as well as appearances by his interlocutor, Claude Mandibil, and his partner, Florence Ben Sadoun.

In 2007, painter-director Julian Schnabel released a film version of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly adapted for the screen by Ronald Harwood. 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.[8] 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.[9] Sylvie de la Rochefoucauld also claims to have visited him frequently at the hospital.


  1. ^ Boyles, Denis (10 October 2003). "Pre-Mortuarial Medicine". National Review Online. Archived from the original on 7 April 2005. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  2. ^ LESLIE SOWERS Staff (20 July 1999). "'Locked-in' quadriplegic shares life". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 7 April 2005. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  3. ^ Bauby, Jean-Dominique (23 June 1998). The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 0375701214.
  4. ^ Tassel, Fabrice (11 March 1997). "L'ultime clin d'oeil de Bauby. Le journaliste paralysé est mort juste après la sortie de son livre". Libération (in French). Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  5. ^ Thomas, Rebecca (8 February 2008). "Diving Bell movie's fly-away success". BBC. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  6. ^ Mallon, Thomas (15 June 1997). "In the Blink of an Eye". New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  7. ^ Freireich, Paul (26 April 1998). "Q and A". New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  8. ^ Arnold, Beth (23 February 2008). "The truth about "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"". Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  9. ^ Di Giovanni, Janine (29 November 2008). "The real love story behind The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2014.

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