Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarussian journalist and writer, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time,” the Swedish Academy announced on Thursday.
Alexievich, 67, becomes the 14th woman to win the coveted literature prize, which has been awarded 107 times.
According to the New York Times, Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said that Alexievich has created “a history of emotions — a history of the soul, if you wish,” in works such as War’s Unwomanly Face, a 1988 book based on interviews with hundreds of women who took part in the Second World War.
Other notable works include Voices of Utopia, which depicted life in the Soviet Union “from the perspective of the individual,” the academy said.
“By means of her extraordinary method — a carefully composed collage of human voices — Alexievich deepens our comprehension of an entire era.”
The trend for Nobel prizes in Literature has been tipped over the past decade towards European writers not widely read in English, including the French novelist J. M. G. Le Clézio (2008), the Romanian-German writer Herta Müller (2009), and the Swedish poet and translator Tomas Transtromer (2011).
Other books by Svetlana Alexievich in English include Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (Dalkey Archive Press, 2005); Voices From Chernobyl: Chronicle of the Future (Aurum Press, 1999); and Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices From a Forgotten War (W. W. Norton, 1992).
Ahmed Rachid wrote the following in a 2012 essay in The New York Review of Books.
“As one might expect, there are hardly any Soviet accounts available on how the Soviet army behaved in Afghanistan. Only two such books were translated into English. Both ‘Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices From a Forgotten War,’ by Svetlana Alexievich, and ‘The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist’s Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan,’ by Artyom Borovik, were written by journalists who became dissidents, and both were highly critical of the Soviet officer class and the Soviet system. Both had much to say about the suffering of ordinary solders, many of whom were wounded. Both books asked why the Red Army was in Afghanistan, just as many Americans today are asking the same question about their army’s presence in Afghanistan.”
Born to a Belarusian father and a Ukrainian mother, Alexievich is credited for providing a voice for men and women who had lived through World War II, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.
On her website, Svetlana Alexievich says she records conversations with 500 to 700 people for each book she writes, according to CNN.
“Real people speak in my books about the main events of the age such as the war, the Chernobyl disaster, and the downfall of a great empire. Together they record verbally the history of the country, their common history, while each person puts into words the story of his/her own life.”
Other 2015 Nobel Prize winners include Arthur B. McDonald, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday, while Takaaki Kajita and Arthur McDonald shared this year’s Nobel in Physics.
The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to 3 scientists for parasite-fighting therapies.
Along with the honor of winning the coveted Nobel Prize in Literature, Svetlana Alexievich won 8 million Swedish kronor (around $960,000) for her body of work.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]