There are two English translations of the novel, one for UK audiences (Mend the Living) and one for U.S. audiences (The Heart), which was published in the U.S. in 2017.
The Wellcome Book prize rewards exceptional works of literature that illuminate the many ways that health, medicine and illness touch our lives. Mend the Living won the Wellcome Book Prize in 2017. It was also long listed for the Man Booker International Prize 2016. Mend the Living has also won several prizes including the Prix Orange du Livre and the Grand prix RTL du livre in France.
Mend the Living was adapted for the stage at the theatre festival in Avignon, receiving rave reviews for its intimate look at the realities and philosophical questions raised around organ donation. It was also adapted into a French film, Reparer Les Vivants, directed by Katell Quillevere and starring Emmanuelle Seigner.
Mend the Living will be the BBC’s World Book Club’s choice for August. Tune in to listen to Maylis de Kerangal discussing her book and you will hear me, asking a question or two, as an invited reader. You can listen to the show here:https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p003jhsk
Loss, love, grief, medicine, organ transplantation and medical ethics.
In a Nutshell:
At the beginning of the novel, we meet 19-year-old Simon Limbeau*, he and 3 friends have just been surfing and are on their way home in their van. The van skids and crashes, Simon is the only one out of the three without a seat belt on (since reading this, I am more prolific than normal in putting my seat belt on and making sure those around me do the same). Simon slams through the windscreen and upon his arrival at the hospital, he is announced brain dead, but in possession of a healthy heart. This novel is the story of Simon’s heart, his grief ridden parents’ decision to donate it to a patient, Claire, who is dying of a heart disease. We see the heart from the perspective of the nurses and doctors, and the crucial part, patients, dead and alive, doctors and nurses, play in organ transplantation.
This is a sad but beautifully written novel. Even in translation, it is quite “French”, by that I mean, long detailed descriptions and long sentences. Kudos to the translator for a beautiful and faithful translation.
Mend the Living illuminates the many ways that medicine, death and health touch our lives. A novel that will be on my mind for some time to come.
“The I.C.U. is a separate space that takes in tangential lives, opaque comas, deaths foretold. It houses these bodies situated exactly at the point between life and death.”
“The heart stopping is no longer the sign of death, from now on it’s the cessation of brain function that is the indication.”
“If I don’t think anymore therefore I am no more.”
“Bury the dead and mend the living.”
* In the translator’s notes, Jessica Moore says that in the original text, Simon’s surname was Limbres, which is one letter away from the French word for limbo, les limbes and is also very close to the word, l’ombre, the word for darkness and shadows. These slight differences would have been lost on English audiences, so the translator decided to translate the central name and with the help of a colleague, arrived at Limbeau.
Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal
Translated from the French by Jessica Moore
09/02/2016, Quercus Publishing
#WITMonth for 2021 is curated by Jess Andoh-Thayre
I am 35, from London but currently living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Overseas, I have lived in Tanzania, Chile and Spain. I am married to a diplomat and we have been posted in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and now Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Prior to meeting my husband, I had also lived in La Serena, Chile and Madrid, Spain.
I am a French, Spanish and English teacher, translator, avid reader and now blogger. When I am not teaching, reading and blogging, I love catching a brilliant sunset, swimming and hanging out with my husband and son.
Author: Maylis de Kerangal
Maylis de Kerangal is a a French author. She has published various novels in French and in translation in English. Her latest book is Painting Time, translated by Jessica Moore and it was published earlier this year.
Translator: Jessica Moore
Jessica Moore is an author, singer-songwriter and literary translator. Her most recent book is The Whole Singing Ocean, published last year. She lives in Toronto, Canada.