“Renowned author Elizabeth Gilbert pulls the plug on upcoming Russian-based book release.”

Elizabeth Gilbert Delays Publication of Novel Set in Russia Following Backlash

Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert has postponed the publication of her novel, “The Snow Forest,” which was set to be released in February 2022. Gilbert cited “anger, sorrow, disappointment, and pain” from Ukrainian readers as the reason for the delay. The novel, which is set in Siberia during the Soviet era, tells the story of a mysterious girl and her mystical connection to nature, and has yet to be released in advance editions.

The Backlash Against “The Snow Forest”

Hundreds of one-star reviews for “The Snow Forest” have flooded the online reader site Goodreads. Many of the reviewers criticized the novel as being insensitive and accused it of whitewashing the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

PEN America Weighs In

Many authors have grappled with how to respond to the Russian invasion, with some choosing to boycott Russian rights to their work. PEN America, the free expression organization, called Gilbert’s decision to delay publication of “The Snow Forest” “well-intended but wrongheaded,” adding that fiction and culture are necessary in promoting mutual understanding and unleashing empathy.

Other Authors Weigh In

Other authors have chosen to handle the tense political climate differently. Some, like Stephen King and Linwood Barclay, have said they will boycott Russian rights to their work. Bulgarian novelist Georgi Gospodinov, whose latest book “Time Shelter” has an anti-Putin theme, has stated that he wants his book widely read in Russia.

The Controversy Continues

The publication of books with Russian settings continues to be a point of debate in the literary world. While some novels are published without incident, Gilbert’s decision to postpone publication of “The Snow Forest” altogether is unusual.

Inspiration for “The Snow Forest”

In a video posted online last week, Gilbert explained that the isolation and silence she experienced during the pandemic inspired the story. She recounted reading about a family that lived in the Siberian wilderness for half a century and was inspired to imagine a character “raised far, far, far from everything that we call normal.”

Final Thoughts

While Gilbert’s decision to delay the publication of her book was well-intended, it has proven controversial. The ongoing debate around which authors should publish books with a Russian setting or theme is likely to continue. It remains to be seen when—or if—“The Snow Forest” will ultimately be published.

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