Indian-American Siddhartha Mukherjee’s non-fiction account of cancer won the Pulitzer prize in the general non-fiction category when the awards were announced in New York City late Monday. A cancer physician and researcher, Dr. Mukherjee’s book drew upon his experience practicing medicine to write “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” which documents the disease from its first appearance thousands of years ago to the medical battles still waged by doctors to combat and control it today.
The Pulitzer Prize citation described the book as “an elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal, into the long history of an insidious disease that, despite treatment breakthroughs, still bedevils medical science.” The prize comes with $10,000 in award money.
Published in the U.S. by Scribner and in India by HarperCollins Publishers India, the book was inspired by a personal event. One day a patient with stomach cancer asked Dr. Mukherjee a simple question about her prognosis: “Where are we going?” That led the author to think the larger scope of the question in terms of cancer research.
The author, a Rhodes scholar, said in an interview that when he started writing the book in 2005 he thought of cancer as a disease, but as he wrote, he began to start seeing it as something that “envelops our lives so fully that it was like writing about someone, it was like writing about an alter personality, an illness that had a psyche, a behavior, a pattern of existing.”
Before winning the Pulitzer, Dr. Mukherjee has already received critical appreciation for his book, which came out in November 2010.
The Guardian, in its review of the book said, “It takes some nerve to echo the first line of ‘Anna Karenina’ and infer that the story of a disease is capable of bearing a Tolstoyan treatment. But that is, breathtakingly, what Mukherjee pulls off.”
Perhaps what may differentiate the book from other vast literature on cancer is the way Dr. Mukherjee deals with the subject and its narrative. Laura Landro wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “He has a certain awe for cancer’s victims, for their ability to withstand the ravages of the disease and the sometimes drastic measures taken to treat it. The stories of his patients consume him, and the decisions he makes about their care haunt him.”
“The Emperor of All Maladies” found coveted spots in the New York Times list of “The 10 Best Books of 2010” and in “The Top 10 Non Fiction Books” list by Time Magazine.
A report in Wall Street Journal. More Here