Maylis de Kerangal’s ‘Mend the Living’ wins the Wellcome Book Prize 2017


‘Mend the Living’ by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore, was today named as the winner of the 2017 Wellcome Book Prize. This year’s Chair of Judges, Val McDermid, made the announcement at an award ceremony at Wellcome Collection, London.

Maylis de Kerangal is the first French author to win the prestigious prize, which celebrates exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction that engage with the topics of health and medicine and the many ways they touch our lives.

Mend the Living’ is the first novel in translation to be awarded the £30,000 prize, translated from French into English by the Canadian translator Jessica Moore. It is the second time a novel has been recognised in the prize’s history.

The judging panel praised Maylis de Kerangal’s beautiful style in this exploration of the emotional, physical and practical complexities of organ donation, reflecting the fragility and fluidity of life.

Concentrated across the span of a single day, ‘Mend the Living’ is a heart-breaking and gripping story of life-saving medical science: a 24-hour whirlwind of trauma and death, life and hope. It tells the story of Simon Limbeau’s heart, from the car accident that leaves him brain-dead and on life support, to the moment when Simon’s heart begins to beat again in the body of someone else.

On 28 April, celebrated French director Katell Quillévéré’s adaption of ‘Mend the Living’ – called ‘Heal the Living’ (‘Réparer les vivants’) – will be screened in UK cinemas, featuring a stellar French cast including Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner and Anne Dorval. The film has received excellent reviews, and was praised by Guy Lodge at ‘Variety’ for blending “dazzling formal polish with rawest emotion”.

‘Mend the Living’ was chosen as the winner of the 2017 Wellcome Book Prize from a shortlist of six books: ‘How to Survive a Plague’ by David France, ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi, ‘The Tidal Zone’ by Sarah Moss, ‘The Gene’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee and ‘I Contain Multitudes’ by Ed Yong.

It is the first time a title from MacLehose Press has won.

Val McDermid commented on behalf of the judging panel:

“‘Mend the Living’ is a metaphorical and lyrical exploration of the journey of one heart and two bodies. Over 24 hours we travel from trauma to hope, discovering both the humane aspect of organ donation and the internal dramas of those affected by it. Compelling, original and ambitious, this novel illuminates what it is to be human.”

Kirty Topiwala, Publisher at Wellcome Collection and Wellcome Book Prize Manager, said:

“The quality of submissions for the 2017 Wellcome Book Prize has been exceptionally high, and we are thrilled that the judging panel has chosen ‘Mend the Living’ as our winner. Not only it is an incredibly powerful and emotionally affecting novel – beautifully translated by Jessica Moore – but it offers a valuable insight into organ donation, and brings new understanding to the lives touched by the transplant process.”

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