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Posted: Monday July 21, 2014
Maylis de Kerangal

Maylis de Kerangal is the author of several novels in French: Je marche sous un ciel de traîne (2000), La vie voyageuse (2003), Corniche Kennedy (2008), and Naissance d’un pont (translated here as Birth of a Bridge, winner of the Franz Hessel Prize and the Médicis Prize in 2010). She has also published a collection of short stories, Ni fleurs ni couronnes (2006), and a novella, Tangente vers l’est (winner of the 2012 Landerneau Prize). In addition, she has published a fiction tribute to Kate Bush and Blondie titled Dans les rapides (2007). In 2014, her fifth novel, Réparer les vivants, was published to wide acclaim, winning the Grand Prix RTL-Lire and the Student Choice Novel of the Year from France Culture and Télérama. She lives in Paris, France.

photo: Catherine Hélie



LATEST Maylis de Kerangal NEWS

April 2017 : Mend the Living wins Wellcome Book Prize!

March 2017 : Mend the Living is short-listed for the Wellcome Book Prize!

November 2016 : Watch the trailer for the new movie based on Maylis de Kerangal’s novel, Mend the Living

June 2016 : Two new reviews of Mend the Living

May 2016 : Take a ride on the ferry boat, and pick up a great book!

March 2016 : This Saturday in Montreal, join us for the launch of Mend the Living

March 2016 : Mend the Living is up for the Man Booker International Prize!

January 2016 : The first book of spring!

January 2016 : A look at what’s coming this spring

February 2015 : Birth of a Bridge a “Frontrunner” in Competition for Best Translated Book Award 2015

February 2015 : Book Review: Birth of a Bridge in the Bull Calf

February 2015 : Book Review: Birth of a Bridge in Three Percent

January 2015 : Book Review: Birth of a Bridge in the Vancouver Sun

January 2015 : Our Best of 2014, According to the Year-End Lists

November 2014 : Launched! Our Fall 2014 “Septuplets”

November 2014 : Book Review: Birth of a Bridge in the Wall Street Journal

October 2014 : Two Major American Reviews for Birth of a Bridge

September 2014 : 100 Ebooks Published!

July 2014 : Birth of a Bridge Has Arrived!

July 2014 : Our Fall 2014 Lineup!

BOOK AWARDS

Mend the Living

Wellcome Book Prize, 2017 (Winner)

Man Booker International Prize, 2016 (Longlisted)

BOOK AWARDS

Birth of a Bridge

Winner of the 2010 Médicis Prize
Winner of the 2010 Franz Hessel Prize

QUOTES OF NOTE

Mend the Living

Mend the Living is a brave book, a highly original and ambitious novel which traces the medical drama and emotional turmoil of a heart transplant in daring, lyrical prose. Concentrated across the span of a single day, Maylis de Kerangal succeeds in telling a gripping, cinematic story while revealing the intricate care, the tensions and the heartbreak of life-saving medical science.”
—Di Spears

“De Kerangal’s books delight in a lexical mix. Sometimes in her fiction, as in her conversation, de Kerangal vacillates between French and English. … So too, her linguistic register shifts without pause. … De Kerangal has proven that serious themes don’t have to be dealt with in the grave, straightforward manner … rather, she shows that a novel comes alive when it is unconstrained by a single tone or linguistic register. Perhaps de Kerangal’s most meaningful achievement has been to chip away at what it means to be a fiction writer in France, a concept she has struggled with since her adolescence. She has escaped the prescriptive definition of ‘writer’ as narrow and elitist, and in doing so, has created novels that connect with a wider audience.”
The Millions

“The narrative is expertly paced … De Kerangal writes in long sentences that heap clause upon clause, descriptive phrases that would seem to be at odds with the efficient, streamlined language of the processes they describe. And yet, by creating the sense of narrating events almost in real time, these long, rhythmic sentences convey something important about the passage of time on a day in which every moment, every detail, is critical. … These seemingly endless sentences occasionally almost teeter over into the melodramatic, but the novel is never mawkish. Jessica Moore’s translation work here is exceptional. French tends to be more forgiving of the endless sentence, the series of clauses, but de Kerangal’s page-long phrases are rendered deftly and gracefully in Moore’s English translation. … Moore’s translation is sensitive and precise.”
Montreal Review of Books

“The human heart, our most elemental necessity, is the novel’s focus, both literally and metaphorically, and the story we enter is told with great heart, and great hopefulness. Written in the grand narrative tradition, the novel reads like a Greek tragedy, like a long, sumptuous passage from Homer. It’s concerns are that broad, and that timeless. There is even a Delphic chorus in the form of cheering soccer fans who are both oblivious to the events occurring in the novel and, yet, strangely, provide an accompanying song of life-giving exuberance. … The novel is beautifully paced, every now and then catching its breath with brief, lighter asides and these asides are welcome because, by now, we, the readers, who have become so immersed in the story, are breathless with grief and hope ourselves.”
Vancouver Sun

“From its glorious 300-word first sentence to the stately canopic imagery of its climactic scenes, Mend the Living, beautifully translated from the French by Jessica Moore, mimics the rhythm of the processes it depicts – the troughs and peaks of grief and protocol, of skills utilised and acceptance finally achieved.”
The Guardian

“An unusual and often-ravishing novel … Ms. de Kerangal’s long, rolling sentences pulse along in systolic thumps, each beat punctuated by a comma; they’re packed with emotional intensity and florid imagery … The entire hospital in this book pounds with life.
New York Times Books

“Moving … because of – not despite – its scientific context … The vocabulary fits each character’s stream of consciousness, challenging the reader to follow the author’s copious research into professional jargons, and teenage slang. … a novel that goes to the heart of what it means to be a human being.”
The Independent

“The story unfolds in an intricate lacework of precise detail. … These characters feel less like fictional creations and more like ordinary people, briefly illuminated in rich language … This novel is an exploration not only of death but of life, of humanity and fragility, ‘because the heart is more than the heart.’”
New York Times blog

“Maylis de Kerangal navigates perfectly between the epic and the intimate; let’s just say that her writing will shake you to your very core.”
Elle

“De Kerangal’s novel pulses with life. … It’s clear de Kerangal has done extensive research, and the novel contains a wealth of medical knowledge. But her prose is more than just technical; the writing is uncommonly beautiful and never lacking humanity. This poetic interrogation of our contemporary medical reality affords a view only literature can provide.”
Publishers Weekly

“… winning and effective … A sophisticated medical drama whose pulse-pounding strength diminishes a touch too quickly.”
– Kirkus Reviews

“Heartbreaking; I’ve seldom read a more moving book … De Kerangal is a master of momentum, to the extent that when the book ends, the reader feels bereft. She shows that narratives around illness and pain can energize the nobler angels of our nature and make for profoundly lovely art. One longs for more …”
The Guardian

“Ably translated by Jessica Moore … long sentences wind across the page, taking in philosophical digressions … De Kerangal’s intellectual flights are balanced out by detailed descriptions of the donation process itself: the various diagnoses, the necessary conversations with the donor’s grieving family, the hasty delivery of the organs in their chilled containers. Throughout, the author handles this difficult subject with enormous subtlety and tact.”
The Independent

“Flamboyant writing combined with a tragic subject make the author’s fifth novel a searing, unforgettable read … [a] gut-wrenching saga … De Kerangal explores the contradiction of death enabling life. … [an] extraordinary novel that etches itself in the mind …”
Irish Times

“This breathless novel has all the beauty of a Greek tragedy. It is also a hymn to creation and a meditation on the relationship between the body and consciousness, life and death”
Figaro

“Among the most fascinating writers of her generation. With Mend the Living, Maylis de Kerangal attains even greater heights”
Le Monde

“Reading Mend the Living is like stepping into a great ocean of words, all cross-currents and waves, and you just have to dive in and let it take you where it will … De Kerangal turns her novels into multi-dimensional, emotional schematics of the situation they’re examining. Events unfold and a fuzzy cloud of words hovers around them ready to illuminate the imperceptible. … Mend the Living covers a short period of time in the lives of only a few people but it reveals whole realms of experience and meaning within that scope. Reading it is a vertiginous experience that you will not soon forget.”
– European Literature Network

“A work so moving, so richly layered it strikes you less like an object and more like something divine – like the heart itself. … But it’s not just the unusual format that makes this novel so remarkable: it’s the spot-on rhythm of de Kerangal’s sentences. … It’s not an exaggeration to say de Kerangal has written a masterpiece, a stunning feat on par with modern medicine, the love of a parent, a second chance at life.”
– TheGazette.com

Mend the Living is the story of a transgression where the heart, liver, lungs, and other organs move beyond their role as sedentary and mortal tools of human mechanics. Here they become travellers on a long journey, and their migration from one body to another brings breath and life.”
– Hélène Vachon, author of A Matter of Gravity

“Jessica Moore’s deft, exacting, and nuanced translation brilliantly writes de Kerangal’s magnificent prose into a new English. A deeply compelling and moving read.”
– Oana Avasilichioaei, author of Limbinal

QUOTES OF NOTE

Birth of a Bridge

“Some structures are so grand and defining that it’s hard to imagine they haven’t always been there. But as Wellcome prize-winner Kerangal shows in her striking 2010 novel, translated by Jessica Moore, the bigger the project, the bigger the story. … Kerangal has a fine ear for the hubbub, spinning epic, comma-flecked sentences into a symphony of human drama and mechanical ingenuity. There’s sorrow, for the way lives are uprooted and the land colonised, but there’s a tremendous, jubilant energy too, in a book that sings of global development in all its ugliness and glory.”
The Guardian

“Ms. de Kerangal’s writing is always exuberant (and boisterously translated by Jessica Moore) … This delightful book’s unabashed idealism, combined with those playfully literary proper names, marks it as a kind of aspirational fairy tale. … Ms. de Kerangal gives us a Tocquevillian picture of America from its most flattering angle: An enterprising, melting-pot democracy driven by dreams of progress and happy to get its hands dirty…”
Wall Street Journal

“a modern saga chronicling the construction of a colossal bridge. … there is … lyricism and beauty to be found through each character’s obsessive outlook on the land and the bridge. Moore stays true to de Kerangal’s unique prose, which flows from the mythic to the mundane. Her translation is clear and unadorned. The story told through its varied cast of characters, alternating from the grandiose to the intimate, is one that will stay with readers long after the book is closed and the bridge is built.”
– Publishers’ Weekly

“The whole narrative unfolds in a dreamlike manner, and Moore’s translation is elegant and sensitively attuned to the author’s wordplay and neologisms.”
Kirkus Reviews

“The book’s themes are mythic; its prose, symphonic. The novel concerns humankind’s hunger for glory, and our drive to ‘master space,’ a desire we will go to any length to fulfil. In the novel, this plays out through the building of a ‘superstar’ bridge, ‘a technical epic,’ one that is painted vermilion, a brilliant shade of red. The eventual job of the bridge is to bring two landscapes together, but, during the building it comes to resemble, with its miles of veinlike red cable, a living organism, a kind of monster powered by the energy of a hot and nervous people.”
Vancouver Sun

“[an] audacious narrative … For all the satiric symbolism and the many cultural references and sideshows, this pragmatic, defiant story is, almost surprisingly, also about building a bridge. … sharp, original, funny and shocking, merciless in its multiple ironies. J.G. Ballard would have applauded it; Don DeLillo would smile wryly. Her prose is snappy, emphatic and muscular, and her use of language, as with names, is free-wheeling. Jessica Moore, the book’s translator, provides a three-page note on the linguistic challenges and unusual word choices. … The story, or rather the project, is the bridge; it is the centre. The humans are minor players. … Although this novel is blunt and plainspeaking, there are moments of beauty … an original, laconic, astute and relentlessly topical morality tale that scores several direct hits.”
Irish Times

“…ambitious prose that ebbs and flows in long, graceful sentences interspersed with shorter, punchier ones. … de Kerangal refrains from taking a black or white stance concerning the issue of globalization, but instead uses the narrative to invite the reader to consider the complex environmental, social, and economical factors at play. … a relevant novel that leaves the reader with few concrete answers, but artfully poses a number of questions worthy of attention.”
Bull Calf

“a strikingly original contemporary myth and a thrilling investigation of post-modernity. The story is simple, absorbingly technical, full of tactile details and well-grounded practicalities. The novel has a strong picaresque quality as well as a masterly epic Western dimension. It is a quest for something unnamed, something unknown, symbolically embodied by the bridge, with powerful impetus and thrust, both narrative and verbal, a constant sense of mobility – and at the same time stagnation. … The picture of the world that de Kerangal conjures – magnificently, breathlessly, intoxicatingly – is a picture of dire meaninglessness and occasionally deep, troubling horror. It is also a picture too familiar to dismiss as fiction. … Maylis de Kerangal is one of the most beautiful and dynamic writers that France has produced in a very long time. … Birth of a Bridge is her first novel to be translated into English – powerfully and elegiacally by Jessica Moore – and there is no doubt that it will mark a change in perception, in appreciation, in humanity, in readers and writers alike.”
– Bookanista

“The action in this novel (de Kerangal’s first to be translated into English) is fast-paced with long sentences that sparkle and flow like that under the sun; just as the characters in the story occasionally mingle, so do references to nature, artifice, and culture. … the reader never feels bogged down because of the passion and intelligence she displays in her subject, as well as her inventive use of language. In addition, Moore’s translation manages the impressive balancing act of maintaining the originality of Kerangal’s French prose while making it accessible for non-French readers. Overall, unlike the characters that constantly move from place to place, Birth of a Bridge will stay with readers long after they finish it.”
– Three Percent

“[an] extraordinary novel … we vacillate between a sense of mythic symbolism of the bridge and a simpler admiration for it as a feat of engineering. … The way de Kerangal uses imagery is unusual, compressing description into tense vignettes. This is her first book to be translated into English. Hopefully we won’t have long to wait for more.”
The Independent

“In some ways, Birth of a Bridge harks back to the American and Soviet industrial novels of nearly a century ago which glorified the triumph of industry and engineering, reveling in great feats of construction that required both brilliant scientific minds and a vast nameless army of industrious workers (as well as – though there was always less emphasis on this – a great deal of capital). De Kerangal’s is a modern variation … and she manages to create both an effective timeless/universal feel … this is a novel of our age. … Credit to Moore for managing the shift into English well, and to both author and translator for their use of language, which is striking but not opaque, and appealingly (as opposed to annoyingly) unusual. De Kerangal’s writing doesn’t feel willfully experimental, even though she is constantly at play; a fine ear makes for a fascinating read, at once familiar and yet strange, contemporary yet constantly echoing – sometimes with a wink – prose of previous eras. ”
– complete-review.com

“First, there is Maylis de Kerangal’s prose – a fast-flowing, meandering river of awesome depth, scintillating with flashes of brilliance, gripping and treacherous as roiling underwater currents. Hovering over it is the story itself, a grandiose, gravity-defying feat of narrative structure, acting as a bridge between reality and myth, development and nature, megalomania and intimacy, and attracting the most varied set of characters ever assembled – nomads of the modern world sharing this surreal space suspended between two shores, living outside the boundaries of ordinary life. A delicate balance to maintain, assuredly, but which the novel manages to perfection.”
– Martine Desjardins, author of Maleficium and other novels


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