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Esmé Weijun Wang signs two-book deal with Riverhead; Nobel literature laureates give lectures

Esmé Weijun Wang. Photo: Kristin Cofer

Esmé Weijun Wang has signed a two-book deal with Riverhead, Entertainment Weekly reports. The announcement included details about the two upcoming titles: Soft Animals will be a novel “about a chronically ill woman who moves into a small-town lodge with her volatile husband after inheriting it from the parents of a hate-crime victim,” while The Unexpected Shape will be a nonfiction book that explores “the balance between ambition and limitation in contemporary life.” Publication dates have not been announced.

The 2019 Nobel literature laureates have given their lectures. Olga Tokarczuk spoke about media, communication, and the power of storytelling. “The world is a fabric we weave daily on the great looms of information, discussions, films, books, gossip, little anecdotes,” she said. “Today the purview of these looms is enormous—thanks to the internet, almost everyone can take place in the process, taking responsibility and not, lovingly and hatefully, for better and for worse. When this story changes, so does the world. In this sense, the world is made of words.” Read her speech, translated by Jennifer Croft and Antonia Lloyd-Jones, here.

In his lecture, Peter Handke quoted from his poem Walk About the Villages and avoided discussing his support of the Serbian regime and Slobodan Milošević. At Literary Hub, John Erik Riley reflects on the decision to continue awarding prizes to Handke. After protesting Handke’s 2014 International Ibsen Prize win, Riley decided to travel to Bosnia and visit the places Handke had written about. “When it comes to the awards themselves, I am plagued by a mixture of irritation, anger and apathy,” Riley writes. “Bosnians have been ignored or given the proverbial finger in so many ways—and for so long—that another misinterpretation or affront seems like par for the course.”

For the New York Times, Anna Momigliano looks at the “Ferrante Effect” on women writers in Italy.

“I find the annual celebration of contemporary writing, the Xmas lists of 2019 books, quite offensive. It seems so arrogant,” Ducks, Newburyport author Lucy Ellmann tells The Guardian. “It’s nice of people to take an interest in new writing of course, especially when one has a book out that year oneself, but let’s face it, it’s a marketing ploy. They want to shift some books, and to do so they glory in the 'now' – while everybody knows readers would get more from reading Ulysses or Woolf or Kafka.”