Mend the Living
By Maylis de Kerangal
ER meets Never Let Me Go in this twenty-four hour lyrical whirlwind of life and death.
Early one blustery day near Le Havre, three teenagers head down to the sea together to go surfing. They are old friends: Chris, Johan and Simon. Exhausted after just one hour in the rough waves, they begin their drive back to town, but Chris, the driver, falls asleep at the wheel and the car skids off the road. Whilst Chris and Johan escape with a few broken bones, it soon becomes clear that Simon is beyond resuscitation, brain-dead in a deep coma.
Apart from his brain however, Simon's organs are in perfect condition. His devastated parents face an agonising decision. If his life support is switched off straight away, his organs can still be used to save other lives, but by consenting, his parents will be choosing to end what remains of their son's life. They decide to go ahead: Simon's heart, lungs, liver and kidneys can be removed and used in organ transplants.
And with that decision, their son's life ends and the implacable mechanisms of organ donation and transplantation click into gear. Simon's heart is removed and a match is found in Paris: Claire Mejan, who suffers from myocarditis and can only hope for survival if she receives a heart transplant. She has just a few hours notice before her transplant will take place.
In the space of just twenty-four hours, Simon Limbres will have said goodbye to his girlfriend, gone surfing with his two best friends, lost his life in a horrific accident, had all his organs removed and shipped around France to waiting matches, and, as his doctor cleans and stitches his empty shell of a body, his heart will begin to beat again many miles away, inside Claire Mejan's body.
Maylis de Kerangal 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, Réparer les vivants, was published to wide acclaim, winning the Grand Prix RTL-Lire award and the student choice novel of the year from France Culture and Télèrama.
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- Publication date:
31 Dec 2016
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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. — Astrid de Larminat, Figaro
Far from being the simple tale of a heart transplant, this novel is a true epic, a great modern saga that investigates our relationship with death as much as our relationship with language. — François Busnel, Lire
A true novel, a great novel, an extraordinary novel. — Bernard Pivot, Journal du Dimanche
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. — Olivia de Lamberterie, Elle
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 — Lydia Kiesling, Guardian
A thrilling opening sequence, well-suited to her urgent, breathless, visceral prose ... this extraordinary novel etches itself in the mind ... There is a flamboyant artistry at work, yet Maylis de Kerangal is confronting a reality that is all too real — Eileen Battersby, Irish Times
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 ... an exploration not only of death but of life, of humanity and fragility — Priya Parmar, New York Review of Books
Among the most fascinating writers of her generation. With Mend the Living, Maylis de Kerangal attains even greater heights — Raphaelle Leyris, Le Monde
A novel that goes to the heart of what it means to be a human being — Amanda Hopkinson, Independent
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. — M. John Harrison, Guardian