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Mend the Living wins Wellcome Book Prize 2017

24 April 2017


Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal and translated by Jessica Moore has been 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.

As Mend the Living is a novel in translation, the £30,000 prize money will be divided with two thirds awarded to the author and one third to the translator.

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.”


Images and further information can be found here and on wellcomebookprize.org.

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About Mend the Living

Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore (MacLehose Press)

Just before dawn on a freezing winter’s morning, three young men head out to the sea and go surfing. But on the drive home, their van suddenly veers off the road and one of them, Simon Limbeau, is propelled through the windscreen. At the hospital, Simon’s devastated parents are told that while he is brain-dead and on life support, his heart is still beating perfectly and could be recovered for use in a transplant. They are faced with an agonising choice.<br>‘Mend the Living’ is the story of Simon Limbeau’s heart – and the story of all the lives it will impact in the 24 hours between the accident that cuts short his life and the moment when his heart will begin to beat again in the body of someone else.

Maylis de Kerangal (49, France) spent her childhood in Le Havre, France. Her novel Birth of a Bridge was the winner of the Prix Franz Hessel and Prix Médicis in 2010. Her novella Tangente vers l’est was the winner of the 2012 Prix Landerneau. In 2014, her fifth novel, Mend the Living, was published in French to wide acclaim, winning the Grand Prix RTL-Lire award and being declared the Student Choice Novel of the Year by France Culture and Télérama.

Jessica Moore is an award-winning translator, songwriter and poet. She lives in Montreal.

About the Wellcome Book Prize

Worth £30,000, the Wellcome Book Prize celebrates the best new books that engage with an aspect of medicine, health or illness, showcasing the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction.&nbsp;<br>Last April, Suzanne O’Sullivan won the 2016 Wellcome Book Prize for It’s All in Your Head. Previous winners of the prize include Marion Coutts for The Iceberg in 2015, Andrew Solomon for Far from the Tree in 2014, Thomas Wright for Circulation in 2012, Alice LaPlante for Turn of Mind in 2011, Rebecca Skloot for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in 2010 and Andrea Gillies for Keeper: Living with Nancy – a journey into Alzheimer’s in 2009.

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