Svetlana Alexievich Wins 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature

Posted on October 8, 2015

Svetlana Alexievich author photo

Author Svetlana Alexievich has won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was given the award "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time." Ms. Alexievich was born in Ukraine, but has lived in Belarus since she was a child. She is a teacher and journalist, and is one of the very few nonfiction writers to have won the award.

Ms. Alexievich, 67, is the author of War's Unwomanly Face, which is based on interviews with female survivors of World War II, Voices From Chenobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, which describess the aftermath of the devastating Russian nuclear accident and Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices From a Forgotten War, which is based on the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

An author as well as a highly respected investigative journalist, she has spent her career chronicling life in the Soviet Union and fighting against authoritarian rule. Her own mother was killed at Chernobyl and her sister was blinded. She interviewed 500 people over ten years for Voices From Chenobyl, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction.

She is considered a pioneer in her genre, which is nonfiction but with a personal touch that gives her books an emotional punch. She has said that her style is based on the old style of Russian storytelling in which important stories are passed down through the generations. She has spent thousands of hours meticulously collecting the voices and stories of the people affected by major events in Russia.

Ms. Alexievich is an outspoken critic of the government of Belarus and of Vladimir Putin, especially of his annexation of Crimea which she calls an illegal ace, and Putin's involvement in Ukraine. Her books drew great fury in certain quarters of Russia and she has been called a traitor for exposing the dirty secrets of the suffering at Chernobyl and in Afghanistan. She lives in Minsk, Belarus. She will receive a cash prize of approximately $970,000.

In this video Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, discusses the historical importance of Svetlana Alexievich's work and why she was selected as the prize winner this year:

Photo: Svetlana Alexievich

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