Weidenfeld & Nicolson is rush publishing Italian physicist and novelist Paolo Giordano's "urgent exploration of the Covid-19 emergency and a chronicle of the Italian lockdown" – How Contagion Works: Science, Awareness and Community in Times of Global Crises.
Pitched as a book that "helps us understand why Covid-19 should be a wake-up call for us all", the e-book edition will be available next week, the audio download is due for release at the end of the month and it is aiming to publish as a paperback original on 9th April 2020. Federico Andornino, editorial director at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) in a deal struck with the MalaTesta Literary Agency.
The author, who is donating his royalties to medical research charities and to those who are working to cure those infected, holds a PhD in physics and is a novelist already published by W&N as well as a regular contributor to popular Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. His article entitled "The maths behind the contagion" was published in the paper on 26th February, explaining why people needed to change their behaviour to slow down the spread of the infection and was shared more than 3.5 million times, helping to shift public opinion in the early weeks of the emergency.
"In concise, immediate prose, Giordano explains how disease spreads in our interconnected world: why it matters, how it impacts us, how we must react," W&N writes in its synopsis for the 80-page book. "Writing from his home in Rome as Italy implements the largest peace-time lockdown ever seen in a democratic country, Giordano expands his focus to other forms of contagion linked to this epidemic – fake news, the environmental crisis, nationalism and xenophobia, the lack of solidarity in an increasingly complex world."
The book will be published in Italy by Einaudi on 26th March. Because of the closure of bookshops in the country, it will be available to buy at newstands alongside copies of the Corriere della Sera and in supermarkets. Rights have so far been sold in Germany (Rowholt), France (Seuil), Portugal (Relogio d'Agua), The Netherlands (De Bezige Bij), Spain (Salamandra), Hungary (Európa Könyvkiadó), Slovenia (Mladinska Knjiga) and in the Catalan language (Edicions 62).
Andornino, the book's UK editor, said: "Clear-sighted, rigorous and moving, this is the book I want to push into people’s hands now. This is not just about the current emergency: Giordano helps us understand why Covid-19 should be a wake-up call for us all, an opportunity to reframe and reshape our relationship with each other and the natural world, so that we might be more prepared when the next epidemic strikes."
Giordano said: "This is an unexpected book in an unexpected time. I'm usually very slow and cautious in the writing process, but what is happening in Italy – and is already happening elsewhere – swiped away all my hesitations. Since the contagion started, I felt a constant need to write, to explain in rational terms what we're going through. People are afraid mostly because they're having a hard time understanding: information has often been disorienting and contradictory. Readers in other parts of the world might be a few days behind – or in some cases a few days ahead – compared to Italy, but we all have the same questions, we all share the same anxiety. It took a pandemic to make us feel so physically apart and yet so emotionally connected. I hope this short essay will bring readers the same sense of calm that writing it brought to me."
Quarto has meanwhile reissued two titles on its books related to viruses: Virus: An Illustrated Guide to 101 Incredible Microbes by Marilyn Roossinck, first published in September 2016, and The Atlas of Disease: Mapping Deadly Epidemics and Contagion from the Plague to the Coronavirus, initially published in September 2018. The latter is marketed as "the first book to feature the outbreak of Covid-19 while interweaving new maps with contemporary illustrations to chart some of the world's most deadly pandemics and epidemics". The books are being reprinted and made available in e-book format.