Even before he was declared the winner of the Tata Literature Live First Book Award, oncologist and author Siddhartha Mukherjee had fans clamouring for him on the final day of the literature festival at Marine Drive’s Experimental Theatre on Sunday.
More than a hundred people were on the waiting list hoping to get into the auditorium, and Mukherjee did not disappoint the packed audiences who had arrived early to get their seats.
Speaking about how he came to write his 2011 Pulitzer-winning book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, he said, “Seven years ago I had my first transition from being a cell biologist to a cancer physician, because I had studied cancer cells and wanted to know what was outside the microscope. I then wanted to move outside the hospital and get a larger perspective on the disease.”
The book charts the history of cancer research through stories about the patients and researchers involved. “In science, you take a human story and write it in coded, scientific language. So the nice part about being a writer was that I had to uncode that language and bring back the human story,” said Mukherjee, who is a cancer physician at Columbia University’s medical centre.