#AMREADING Maylis de Kerangal, Mend the Living.
The subject is clinical, but the language is lyrical and asks the existential question: What does it mean to be alive or dead?
Simon is in a coma after a car accident. His heart (or rather the machine to which he is hooked up) keeps pumping blood, a life of ebbs and flows, of valves and flap gates, a life of pulsations. On the night when his heart slips from the grip of the machine, it was bone-crackingly cold on the estuary and in the Caux region, while a reflectionless swell rolled along the base of the cliffs, while the continental plateau drew back, unveiling its geological stripes.
Dr. Revol informs Simon’s parents of his death. One needs time, of course, to catch one’s breath after uttering such a thing, time to take a pause, stabilize the oscillations of the inner ear so as not to collapse in a heap on the ground. Gazes dissolve. Revol ignores the beep beep at his belt.
He gets ready to speak to the parents about organ donation. He prepares for the conversation the way he prepares himself to sing, relaxing his muscles, regulating his breathing, conscious that punctuation is the anatomy of language, the structure of meaning, and he visualizes the opening sentence, its musical line, and gauges the first syllable he will utter, the one that will cleave the silence.
The parents give him permission to transplant Simon’s heart.
Before leaving the hospital, Simon’s mother turns around one last time toward the bed and what freezes her in place then is the solitude that emanates from Simon, from now on as alone as an object, as though he had been unballasted of his human aspect. Simon is dead, she says these words to herself for the first time.