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Writer Elizabeth Gilbert faces backlash over book with plot in Russia

Originally published: Al Mayadeen on June 14, 2023 by Agencies (more by Al Mayadeen)  | (Posted Jun 15, 2023)

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the renowned book “Eat, Pray, Love”,  announced on Monday that she will postpone the release of her new novel, “The Snow Forest”,  because she received heavy backlash given that the book’s events are set in Siberia, Russia.

Ukrainians took issue with the book’s setting which drove Gilbert to announce in a video that she will be “making a course correction” and “removing the book from its publication schedule. It is not the time for this book to be published.”

According to Gilbert, the book tells the story of a “group of individuals who made a decision to remove themselves from society to resist the Soviet government and to try to defend nature against industrialization.”

Ukrainian readers, according to Gilbert voiced “anger, sorrow, disappointment and pain” over the book’s setting given that it will also be released while the war in Ukraine remained ongoing.

In contrast, literary non-profit PEN America criticized Gilbert’s decision to push back the publication’s release date as the book is expected to undergo certain changes.

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said “Ukrainians have suffered immeasurably, and Gilbert’s decision in the face of online outcry from her Ukrainian readers is well-intended,” adding “But the idea that, in wartime, creativity and artistic expression should be preemptively shut down to avoid somehow compounding harms caused by military aggression is wrongheaded.”

In turn, Pulitzer Prize finalist Rebecca Makkai also criticized Gilbert’s decision saying:

“So apparently: Wherever you set your novel, you’d better hope to hell that by publication date (usually about a year after you turned it in) that place isn’t up to bad things, or you are personally complicit in them,” she wrote on Twitter.

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