67-Year-Old Belarussian Female Journalist Wins 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature
Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarussian journalist and prose writer, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time,” the Swedish Academy announced.
Ms. Alexievich, 67, is the 14th woman to win the literature prize. Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said she had created “a history of emotions — a history of the soul, if you wish.”
Ms. Alexievich’s works often blend literature and journalism. She is best known for giving voice to women and men who lived through World War II, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that lasted from 1979 to 1989, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.
“She’s devised a new kind of literary genre,” Ms. Danius said, adding, “It’s a true achievement not only in material but also in form.”
Perhaps her most acclaimed book is “War’s Unwomanly Face” (1988), based on interviews with hundreds of women who took part in the Second World War. The book is the first in a grand cycle, “Voices of Utopia,” that depicted life in the Soviet Union from the point of view of ordinary citizens.
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In the United States, Ms. Alexievich is best known for the oral history “Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster” which was translated by the writer Keith Gessen and published in 2005 by Dalkey Archive Press. The book, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, is a compilation of interviews with survivors of the nuclear reactor accident. She spent 10 years visiting the Chernobyl zone, and conducted more than 500 interviews.
In an interview posted on the press’s website, Ms. Alexievich said her technique of blending journalism and literature was inspired by the Russian tradition of oral storytelling. “I decided to collect the voices from the street, the material lying about around me,” she said. “Each person offers a text of his or her own.”
“By means of her extraordinary method — a carefully composed collage of human voices — Alexievich deepens our comprehension of an entire era,” the academy said.
The Nobel in literature, one of the most prestigious prizes in the literary world, is given in recognition of a writer’s entire body of work rather than a single title. It has been awarded over the years to international literary giants like Gabriel García Márquez, Albert Camus and Toni Morrison, as well as to more obscure authors.