Maylis de Kerangal’s novel Mend the living has been announced as the winner of this year’s Wellcome Book Prize – only the second novel to win the prize in its history.
The novel is also the first translated text written by a French author to win the coverted prize, announced in a ceremony at the Wellcome Collection in London by the Chair of Judges Val McDermid.
Winning the prize, Maylis de Kerangal is the first French author to win the Wellcome Book Prize, which celebrates works of fiction and non-fiction that engage with the topics of health and medicine and the many ways they touch our lives.
The £30,000 prize was awarded to Maylis de Kerangal by the judges who praised her beautiful style in the exploration of the emotional, physical and practical complexities of organ donation, reflecting the fragility and fluidity of life.
Translated into English by Jessica Moore, Mend the Living is set across a single day is heart-breaking account that 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.
Mend the Living was selected as the winner of the 2017 Wellcome Book Prize from the shortlist of six books : How to Survive a Plague by David France, When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss, The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee and I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong.
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 said on behalf of the judging panel: “Compelling, original and ambitious, this novel illuminates what it is to be human.”
Meanwhile, 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.”