Oval: A Novel (Paperback)

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Oval: A Novel By Elvia Wilk Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

A speculative novel set in present-day Berlin, Oval takes place in a milieu shaped by tech utopianism, sustainability culture, gentrification, and the listless drifting characteristic of the overwhelmed. There's a Pynchon-esque corporation which absorbs everything it sees and an alienated protagonist who falls somewhere between Didion and Moshfegh, all taking place in a weatherscape which has flipped, an uncanny premonition of things to come. A novel where the natural and artificial, where human and plant, begin to dissolve, ending at last with just one woman in a landscape while the city burns. Oval is like a bad dream you're comforted to watch unfold, so inevitable does it feel.

— Madeleine

Set in an unspecified near future in Berlin, on an artificial mountain and experiment in sustainable living called the Berg, Oval takes place in a world that is somehow both a satirical caricature and an alarmingly feasible vision of the future. Wilk's themes are numerous and wide reaching - all circling around the vacuousness of neoliberalism and the fragility of humanity's future - but ultimately, for me, this is a book about the dissolution of a relationship, an interior shift that mirrors the recognition of apocalypse.

— Nick


Bizarre weather. Unprecedented economic disparity. Artists employed by corporations. And the ultimate work of art: Oval, a pill that increases generosity. This unforgettable debut novel asks questions of empathy and power on every scale—from bodies to bureaucracies—to create an unsettling portrait of the future.

In the near future, Berlin’s real estate is being flipped in the name of “sustainability,” only to make the city even more unaffordable; artists are employed by corporations as consultants, and the weather is acting strange. When Anja and Louis are offered a rent-free home on an artificial mountain—yet another eco-friendly initiative run by a corporation—they seize the opportunity, but it isn’t long before the experimental house begins malfunctioning.

After Louis’s mother dies, Anja is convinced he has changed. At work, Louis has become obsessed with a secret project: a pill called Oval that temporarily rewires the user’s brain to be more generous. While Anja is horrified, Louis believes he has found the solution to Berlin’s income inequality. Oval is a fascinating portrait of the unbalanced relationships that shape our world, as well as a prescient warning of what the future may hold.

”A fascinating near-future exploration of relationships, sustainability, and power. An extraordinarily accomplished debut novel." —Jeff VanderMeer, author of Borne and Annihilation

“Elvia Wilk’s Oval is a marvel. At the core of this seductive, acute, superbly-contemporary update of mid-period J.G. Ballard lies a deep-beating, deep-dreaming heart.” —Jonathan Lethem

About the Author

Elvia Wilk is a writer and editor living in New York and Berlin. She writes about art, architecture, and technology for several publications, including frieze, Artforum, e-flux, Metropolis, Mousse, Flash Art, Art in America, and Zeit Online.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781593764050
ISBN-10: 1593764057
Publisher: Soft Skull
Publication Date: June 4th, 2019
Pages: 352
Language: English