"Liz, baby, I said. What were you thinking? You can't write a book set in Russia. Jesus H Christ! I'm glad you called me. We're going to do a few minor tweaks and they are going to love it. I don't mean like, I mean love it!
First off, it's going to take place in San Francisco, and all the characters except one offensive white guy are going to be non-binary. And we're going to have plenty of Jewish and other minorities who earn less money but are still colorful. No, I didn't mean that. I meant interesting characters."
‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Author Elizabeth Gilbert’s New Book Is Withdrawn by Penguin Random House
Author asks for ‘The Snow Forest,’ set in Russia, to be held back after hearing objections from Ukrainian readers
By Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, WSJ
Updated June 12, 2023 2:48 pm ET
Author Elizabeth Gilbert said she didn’t want to further harm some readers by publishing a novel set in Russia.
Penguin Random House is withdrawing a new novel by “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert at her request after some of her fans objected that it was set in Russia, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Gilbert said in a video she posted on Twitter on Monday that she wouldn’t publish the new book, “The Snow Forest,” after receiving objections from fans.
The author said she received “an enormous, massive outpouring of reactions and responses from my Ukrainian readers, expressing anger, sorrow, disappointment and pain” about her plans to release a book set in Russia. Gilbert said she didn’t want to further harm “a group of people who have already experienced and who are continuing to experience grievous and extreme harm.”
Penguin Random House’s decision to withdraw the novel at the author’s request is a sign of how the war between Russia and Ukraine is rippling across many corners of culture, from publishing to international tennis matches.
A spokeswoman for Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, said the author wasn’t available for further comment. Efforts to reach Gilbert’s literary agent were unsuccessful.
Writers group PEN America, which advocates for free expression, said it disagreed with Gilbert’s move. The group said that her decision was “well-intended,” but that the belief that artistic work should be curtailed because of military conflict “is wrongheaded.”
Set in Siberia in the 20th century, the new book tells the stories of people who removed themselves from society to “resist the Soviet government, and to try to defend nature against industrialization,” Gilbert said in the video.
Gilbert’s 2006 memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” was highly successful. The new book was recently promoted on “Good Morning America.”
The novel is no longer listed for sale on Amazon.com. Amazon couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
When asked whether Gilbert was returning her advance, a spokeswoman for Riverhead Books declined to comment.
“The publisher has to do what the author requests,” said Lorraine Shanley, president of industry consultants Market Partners International. “If there is mutual trust, then there should be mutual respect.”
Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and the two sides remain at war. The conflict has led a number of companies from Apple to McDonald’s and Netflix to pull back their presence in Russia.