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Thursday, October 8, 2015

2015 Nobel Prize for Literature - Svetlana Alexievich

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2015 will be awarded to the Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time" (

“Alexievich used the skills of a journalist to create literature chronicling the great tragedies of the Soviet Union and its collapse: the Second World War, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Chornobyl nuclear disaster and the suicides that ensued from the death of Communism” (

Her first novel, War's Unwomanly Face, was based on the previously untold stories of women who had fought against the Nazi Germans.

Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War gives the testimony of the officers and soldiers, nurses and prostitutes, mothers, sons, and daughters who describe the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan and its lasting effects

Enchanted with Death is about suicides due to the downfall of the Soviet Union.

For Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, Alexievich interviewed more than 500 eyewitnesses, including firefighters, members of the cleanup team, politicians, physicians, physicists, and ordinary citizens, over a period of 10 years. The book relates the psychological and personal tragedy of the Chernobyl accident, and explores the experiences of individuals and how the disaster affected their lives.

The Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, paid tribute to Alexievich's work:  "For the past 30 or 40 years she’s been busy mapping the Soviet and post-Soviet individual. But it’s not really a history of events. It’s a history of emotions. What she’s offering us is really an emotional world. So these historical events that she’s covering in her various books – for example the Chernobyl disaster or the Soviet war in Afghanistan – are, in a way, just pretexts for exploring the soviet individual and the post soviet individual. She’s conducted thousands of interviews with children, women and men, and in this way she’s offering us a history of a human being about whom we didn’t know that much” (

Alexievich described the theme of her books in this way:
"If you look back at the whole of our history, both Soviet and post-Soviet, it is a huge common grave and a blood bath.  An eternal dialog of the executioners and the victims.  The accursed Russian questions: what is to be done and who is to blame.  The revolution, the gulags, the Second World War, the Soviet-Afghan war hidden from the people, the downfall of the great empire, the downfall of the giant socialist land, the land-utopia, and now a challenge of cosmic dimensions – Chernobyl.  This is a challenge for all the living things on earth.  Such is our history.  And this is the theme of my books, this is my path, my circles of hell, from man to man" (