Where wheelchairs are as common as Ferraris…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a simile from Jean-Dominique Bauby…

The 1998 memoir The Diving Bell and the Butterfly won me over when I read it earlier this year. The book allows a French editor — in his own words — to tell the story of a devastating stroke he suffered, leading to locked-in syndrome. Before he died, he was able to narrate this book, using blinks of his one working eye.

Surprisingly, for such a sombre subject, the book is easy reading and sometimes quite amusing. Bauby can write and his skill is starkly evident on these pages. Here was one simile that caught my eye:

Wheelchairs are as commonplace at Berck as Ferraris at Monte Carlo, and poor dislocated wheezing devils like me are everywhere.  

Isn’t it interesting how he compares a wheelchair — a sign of suffering and disability — to a Ferrari, a symbol of wealth, agility and power? I also like the way he uses the phrase “poor dislocated wheezing devils like me,” to demonstrate his own humility. It’s interesting how such words don’t make the reader believe he’s feeling sorry for himself. Instead, it achieves the reverse. He sounds pragmatic, honest and accepting.

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