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Mend The Living

Written by Maylis de Kerangal

Read the opening chapter of Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore | Brick Magazine

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.

“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

“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

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

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

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).

Jessica Moore

Jessica Moore is an author and a translator. She is a former Lannan writer-in-residence, a Banff International Literary Translation Centre fellow, and she is VP for Ontario for the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada.



 

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