Three Irish writers on £30,000 Wellcome Prize longlist

Bernard MacLaverty, Maggie O’Farrell and Mark O’Connell on 12-strong longlist for prize celebrating books about health and medicine

Longlisted: Bernard MacLaverty, Maggie O’Farrell and Mark O’Connell

Longlisted: Bernard MacLaverty, Maggie O’Farrell and Mark O’Connell

 

Bernard MacLaverty, Maggie O’Farrell and Mark O’Connell have made the 12-strong 2018 Wellcome Book Prize longlist, which celebrates literature that illuminates our relationship with health, medicine and illness.

The three Irish authors were nominated respectively for the novel Midwinter Break, the memoir I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen brushes with death, and the nonfiction work, To Be a Machine: Adventures among cyborgs, utopians, hackers, and the futurists solving the modest problem of death.

The other titles in the running for the £30,000 prize are Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo; The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s quest to transform the grisly world of Victorian medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris; In Pursuit of Memory: The fight against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli; Plot 29: A memoir by Allan Jenkins; The White Book by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith; With the End in Mind: Dying, death and wisdom in an age of denial by Kathryn Mannix; Mayhem: A memoir by Sigrid Rausing; Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst by Robert Sapolsky; and The Vaccine Race: How scientists used human cells to combat killer viruses by Meredith Wadman.

The longlist was selected by a judging panel chaired by artist and writer Edmund de Waal with Dr Hannah Critchlow, Bryony Gordon, Sumit Paul-Choudhury and Sophie Ratcliffe. De Waal said: “The Wellcome Book Prize is unique in its reach across genres, and so the range of books that we have considered has been exhilarating in its extent and ambition. This is a remarkable time for readers, with a great flourishing of writing on ideas around science, medicine and health, lives and deaths, histories and futures. We are proud to be part of this process of bringing to a wider public these 12 tremendous books that have moved, intrigued and inspired us. All of them bring something new to our understanding of what it is to be human.”

The 2018 Wellcome Book Prize longlist
The 2018 Wellcome Book Prize longlist

This year’s longlist features three poignant novels about the different stages of love, life, birth and death. These cover the grief of losing a newborn sister through a stunning contemplation of the colour white (The White Book), the deterioration of a relationship, seen through the eyes of an ageing alcoholic (Midwinter Break), and fertility, family and sickle-cell anaemia (Stay With Me).

The three memoirs offer a powerful insight into the impact of addiction on a family (Mayhem), the long-lasting effects of trauma and the therapeutic benefits of gardening (Plot 29) and one individual’s near-death experiences in a tenaciously powerful account of what it means to be alive (I Am, I Am, I Am).

Death and mortality are also explored through a touching and unparalleled look into the life of palliative care workers (With the End in Mind) and a very human story about the race against the clock to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease (In Pursuit of Memory).

From the science of our cells to the science of our minds, the longlist reveals the epic and controversial story of the creation of some of the world’s most important vaccines (The Vaccine Race) and an eye-opening exploration of the science of human behaviour (Behave).

Looking to both the history and the future of medical science, the list includes the story of Joseph Lister’s transformation of Victorian surgery (The Butchering Art) and a cutting-edge tour of transhumanism and radical life extension (To Be a Machine).

The shortlist will be announced on March 20th and the winner on April 30th. Irish neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan won in 2016 for It’s All in Your Head. Her follow-up, Brainstorm, is published on April 5th.

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