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New work of fiction stunningly similar to COVID-19 realities
MONTREAL -- It’s like she saw it coming.
Montreal author Saleema Nawaz crafted a meticulously researched work of fiction called “Songs for the End of the World” that reads strangely like fact in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic travels the earth stopping society in its tracks.
She started working on the book in 2013 only to find the reality in her fiction emerge in 2020, just as her book is being released.
“I wanted to write something about a pandemic that was realistic, also hopeful,” said the author. “I notice that there was this wave of disaster movies and dystopian novels about societal breakdown in a crisis and total chaos, and my instincts were that they just weren’t true.”
Her new novel, Nawaz said, is about coming together in the face of a pandemic rather than everyone turning on each other.
Nawaz won the Quebec Writers’ Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for fiction for her first novel “Bone and Bread” in 2016.
The timing of the novel’s release couldn’t be more dramatic, something the author is fully aware of.
“I imagine I have been quite annoying to live with over the past few weeks because I have been like, ‘Oh my gosh! this and this and this,’ but in the novel, it’s a novel coronavirus that originates in China and quickly becomes out of control,” she said.
The novel also includes rules about physical distancing, describes New York as a hot spot, and features a terrible anti-Asian backlash and rise in hate crimes; all of which have proven true during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“There are really a lot of similarities,” said Nawaz. “One of the eeriest ones for me is that in the novel there is actually a character of a writer who has written a novel about the pandemic that seems to be coming true as well. So that’s just an extra meta level of ‘surreality.’”
The author coems back to the word surreal, as describing how it feels to see her work of fiction become reality.
“It’s been a bit unnerving, but so many of us are finding it a very unreal situation,” she said. “Even though I’ve been imagining it for years, it doesn’t really prepare for how it really feels, like this real feeling of being separated form all – everyone you know.”
The ebook is available Tuesday with the print edition coming August 25.