(NEW YORK)— In response to news reports that author Elizabeth Gilbert has delayed indefinitely a new novel because of a backlash over its being set in Russia while the war in Ukraine is ongoing, PEN America issued the following comments from CEO Suzanne Nossel:

“It is regrettable that Elizabeth Gilbert felt it necessary to delay the publication of a novel set in Russia.   Ukrainians have suffered immeasurably, and Gilbert’s decision in the face of online outcry from her Ukrainian readers is well-intended.  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.  The timing of the uproar, right after Gilbert announced the forthcoming publication, makes clear that those objecting have not yet had a chance to read or judge the work itself.  The publication of a novel set in Russia should not be cast as an act exacerbating oppression.  Fiction and culture are essential to supporting mutual understanding and unleashing empathy.  The choice of whether to read Gilbert’s book lies with readers themselves, and those who are troubled by it must be free to voice their views. We hope Gilbert might reconsider and we urge others to rally around the on-time publication of her book, and the principle that literature and creativity must not become a casualty of war.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org 

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057