Mend the Living Front Cover

Paperback / softback
ISBN: 9780889229730
Pages: 224
Pub. Date: January 27 2016
Dimensions: 8.5" x 5" x 0.625"
Rights: Available:
Fiction / FIC019000

  • FICTION / Literary

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Mend the Living

By Maylis de Kerangal
Translated by Jessica Moore

Mend the Living is the story of a heart transplant, centred around Simon Limbeau, the boy whose heart is given, and his family.

Taking place within exactly twenty-four hours, the novel traces the thrill of an early-morning winter surf session, the terrible accident that follows, and all the urgency and compassion of the hospital workers, and shock and grief of Simon’s family as they negotiate the question of organ donation. Maylis de Kerangal offers glimpses into the thoughts and affective lives of each of the characters: Simon, at the core of the novel; Marianne and Sean, his parents, who have been estranged for some months; Revol, the chief surgeon, music enthusiast, and studier of hallucinogenic plants; Cordelia Owl, the capable new nurse who is reeling from a night spent with her former lover; Thomas Rémige, the hospital coordinator, an opera singer, and aficionado of goldfinches; Virgilio, the silvertongued, light-fingered surgeon; Juliette, Simon’s girlfriend, who is building a labyrinth inside a Plexiglass case, waiting for Simon’s call.

The novel also touches upon Claire, the recipient of the heart, whose life has been limited by her condition, who reflects philosophically on what it means to have someone else’s heart beating inside you.

Weaving from hospital corridors to the wild waves of the Atlantic, from the narrow streets of Paris to the countryside in Algeria where goldfinches still sing, from the most intimate details of grief within a car in Le Havre to universal considerations of science, compassion, and humanity, Mend the Living is a powerful and vast-ranging book. In her trademark masterful use of language, playing with pacing and tension and a vibrant vocabulary, Maylis de Kerangal gives us a metaphysical adventure that is at once both collective and intimate.

Winner 2017 Wellcome Book Prize

Long-listed 2016 Man Booker International Prize

Reviews for the French novel

“One of the most fascinating writers of her generation ... If this book, for which the author attended a heart transplant, is extremely moving, it’s partly because she brings us into the interiority of her characters by rendering each person’s relationship to time during the twenty-four hours of the story. With Mend the Living, Maylis de Kerangal moves from technical considerations to metaphysics, from exteriority to interiority. She attains ever higher heights.”
Le monde des livres

“The most outstanding [literary] achievement of the beginning of 2014 ... Mend the Living is Maylis de Kerangal’s most beautiful work to date ... Far from being simply the story of a heart transplant, this novel is a modern epic that examines our relationship to death, in as much detail as our relationship to language ... A book of such beauty it will take your breath away.”

“Maylis de Kerangal holds back (as a good novelist should) from giving answers to these enormous questions around organ donation; but she brings them up with a breathtaking acuity. One thing becomes clear in our reading: human beings are not pure spirit – the body also has soul.”
Le Figaro littéraire

“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

“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.”

“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

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

“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.”