The Coronavirus Novel: An Israeli Author Wrote a Book on the 2020 Pandemic 23 Years Ago

In her science fiction novel ‘2020’ published in 1987, an Israeli author described a global pandemic much like the coronavirus. Now she explains why she went there and how she managed to get things so right

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Hamutal Shabtai and the original cover of her 1987 book '2020.'
Hamutal Shabtai and the original cover of her 1987 book '2020.' Appreciation for the book has revived in recent years, even before the coronavirus emerged.Credit: Ilya Melnikov and Keter publishing house
Neta Halperin
Neta Halperin

When January began, as yet another election loomed in Israel and with climate change and other burning issues commandeering the public’s attention, Hamutal Shabtai said to herself – You see, 2020 is here and nothing you wrote about happened.

Indeed, “2020,” the science fiction novel that Shabtai published in 1997 (Keter Press, in Hebrew), about a mysterious virus that threatens to doom humanity to extinction wasn’t on anybody’s radar for the year. She certainly never imagined how prescient her futuristic dystopian fantasy written 23 years ago would prove to be.