Book details

The Heart

A Novel

Author: Maylis de Kerangal; Translated from the French by Sam Taylor

The Heart

The Heart


About This Book

One of Bill Gates' "Five Best Summer Reads"

The basis for the critically-acclaimed film, Heal the Living, directed by Katell Quillévéré...

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Book Details

One of Bill Gates' "Five Best Summer Reads"

The basis for the critically-acclaimed film, Heal the Living, directed by Katell Quillévéré and starring Tahar Rahim and Emmanuelle Seigner

Albertine Prize Finalist

Winner of the Wellcome Book Prize and the French-American Foundation Translation Prize

Just before dawn on a Sunday morning, three teenage boys go surfing. While driving home exhausted, the boys are involved in a fatal car accident on a deserted road. Two of the boys are wearing seat belts; one goes through the windshield. The doctors declare him brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital, but his heart is still beating.

The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding the resulting heart transplant, as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death. In gorgeous, ruminative prose, it examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved as they navigate decisions of life and death.

As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, The Heart mesmerized readers in France, where it has been hailed as the breakthrough work of a new literary star. With the precision of a surgeon and the language of a poet, de Kerangal has made a major contribution to both medicine and literature with an epic tale of grief, hope, and survival.

Imprint Publisher




Reading Guide

In The News

“[The Heart] is an unusual and often-ravishing novel . . . Ms. de Kerangal’s long, rolling sentences pulse along in systolic thumps, each beat punctuated by a comma; they’re packed with emotional intensity and florid imagery, and they’ve been superbly translated by Sam Taylor.” —Jennifer Senior, The New York Times

“From its first, hurtling, paragraph-long sentence, this novel vividly dramatizes each step in the organ-donation process . . . It’s the kind of science writing that’s too uncommon, inspiring wonder not by insisting on it but by chronicling every detail.” —The New Yorker

“[A] layered, meditative novel. . .These characters feel less like fictional creations and more like ordinary people, briefly illuminated in rich language, beautifully translated by Sam Taylor, that veers from the medical to the philosophical . . . . . . This novel is an exploration not only of death but of life, of humanity and fragility, 'because the heart is more than the heart.'“ —Priya Parmar, New York Times Book Review

“[A] faceted gem of a book . . . Ms. de Kerangal excels at stamping her dramatis personae with big, emphatic personalities, in keeping with the miraculous nature of their undertaking. . . . the writing in The Heart has a hurtling, onrushing quality that makes you think of blood roaring through the vascular system . . . Sam Taylor has bravely taken on the task of recapturing Ms. de Kerangal’s rhapsodic rhythms in English . . . His translation throbs with beauty, sorrow and an undimmed astonishment at the life of the body.” —Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

“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, The Guardian

“You may just take up French after you're done with The Heart, just so you can read this book in its original form—it's that beautiful, even in translation. This unlike-anything-you've-ever-read novel takes place over 24 hours, following the trajectory of a heart transplant. With its incredibly precise and exacting language as well as its dedication to challenging form, The Heart shimmers and sears at the same time.” —Meredith Turtis,ELLE

“An exquisite valentine to that engine on which every breath depends . . . Transcendent.” —More Magazine

“Sometimes it’s the simplest stories that pack the biggest punch. The Heart, the latest novel from French author Maylis de Kerangal, packs a wallop . . . A work so moving, so richly layered it strikes you less like an object and more like something divine — like the heart itself . . . De Kerangal has written a masterpiece, a stunning feat on par with modern medicine, the love of a parent, a second chance at life.” —Laura Farmer, The Gazette

“Not only does Kerangal spellbindingly express her characters’ inner voices, but she also uses them as vehicles for richly faceted inquiries into the history and procedures of transplants, profound questions about the body and the soul, the art of surfing, the engine of lust, and the joy and anguish of love. Everything is alive and scintillating, from a rowdy soccer game to a trip to Algiers, where endangered goldfinches are captured for their exquisite songs. Kerangal infuses each beautifully rendered element with multiple dimensions of meaning and emotion to create a sensuous and propulsive novel of tragedy and hope.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist(starred review)

“[De Kerangal's] writing is uncommonly beautiful and never lacking humanity. The poetic interrogation of our contemporary medical reality affords a view only literature can provide.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“I read The Heart in a single sitting. It is a gripping, deceptively simple tale—a death, a life resurrected—in which you follow along as everyone touched by the events is made to reveal what matters most to them in their lives. I was completely absorbed.” —Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal

“If function dictates form, Maylis de Kerangal’s The Heart is a perfect novel—its writing as measured and precise as a scalpel in the hands of a gifted surgeon. The pure beauty of these short, sharp cuts has produced a devastating and brilliant work.” —Anita Shreve, author of Stella Bain

“[The Heart] is a splendid title and a splendid book . . . A heart transplant must be performed in the 24 hours following death, or not at all. This novel is about what happens during these 24 hours. Between the moment when a 20-year-old dies and the moment his heart finds a home in the body of a 50-year-old woman. Maylis de Kerangal describes with frantic energy and wonderful tenderness all the people, all the individual stories, all the griefs and hopes that are involved in this process . . . Before this fifth novel, [de Kerangal] was considered one of the most promising French novelists. [The Heart] is more than a promise; in France it was an immediate bestseller, and has remained so from the beginning to the end of 2014 and reconciled the most demanding literary critics with the largest audience.” —Emmanuel Carrére, author of Limonov, Publisher Weekly's Top Authors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2014

About the Creators

The Heart

The Heart