Albertine Prize Nominee: The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal

April 12, 2017 | By FRENCH CULTURE BOOKS

The Heart has been shortlisted for the Albertine Prize, a reader's choice award for best contemporary French fiction in English translation. The Heart takes place over the 24 hours surrounding a fatal car crash and the subsequent heart transplant as life is taken from a young man and given to a dying woman. As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, the book examines the deepest emotions of everyone involved - grieving parents, doctors and nurses - as they navigate decisions of life and death. The book won numerous prizes. Translated by Sam Taylor (FSG). Vote for the Albertine Prize through April 30th!

An Excerpt from The Heart

We’ve got someone for you. A call at 10:12 a.m. Neutral, informative, staccato. A man, six feet, 150 pounds, about twenty years old, automobile accident, traumatic brain injury, in a coma—we know who this is, of course: his name is Simon Limbres. The call is barely over before the emergency medical team arrives at the ICU. The fire doors open and the stretcher is rolled through the department’s main corridor, people moving out of its way. Révol appears. He has just examined the patient admitted in the night after convulsions and he is pessimistic: the woman was not given CPR in time; a scan revealed that liver cells died after the heart stopped beating, a sign that the brain cells were affected too. Now, after being alerted, he sees the gurney at the end of the corridor and thinks: This is going to be a long day.

The emergency team’s doctor follows the stretcher. Bald, in his mid- fi fties, he has the physique of a mountain climber: zero body fat, hard as stone. He exposes pointed teeth when he shouts out: Glasgow 3! Then, to Révol: The neurological examination showed no spontaneous reaction to auditory, visual, or tactile stimulation; there is also ocular damage (asymmetrical eye movement) and respiratory autonomic dysfunction; we’ve intubated him. He closes his eyes and smooths his skull, from the forehead to the occiput: suspected cerebral hemorrhage after a TBI, nonreactive coma, Glasgow 3—he uses this shared language, this language that banishes prolixity as time- wasting, forbids any notions of eloquence or seductiveness in articulation, abuses nouns, codes, and acronyms, this language where to talk is to describe or provide information about a body, to lay down the parameters of a situation in order that a diagnosis can be made, tests ordered, that the patient can be treated, saved: the power of concision. Révol absorbs each piece of information, then orders a body scan.