The Belarusian investigative journalist has written about Russia's darkest momentsby Sameer Rahim / October 8, 2015 / Leave a comment
Who is Svetlana Alexievich?
Svetlana Alexievich was born in Ukraine on 31st May 1948 to a Ukrainian mother and Belarusian father. Her family moved to Belarus, which was then a Soviet republic, when she was a child, and her parents worked as teachers. She studied journalism at the University of Minsk between 1967 and 1972. She published her first book War’s Unwomanly Face in 1985. This was the opening work in a series she entitled “Voices of Utopia,” which investigate the worst tragedies of Russian history in the 20th century. She writes in Russian but describes herself as a Belarusian writer. Unusually for a literature Nobel Prize-winner, she is not a novelist or poet, but an investigative journalist.
Was her Nobel win a surprise?
Alexievich is not a household name in the west. But among those interested in Eastern Europe and Russia, she is a highly respected author. Before last year’s award, Philip Gourevitch blogged in the New Yorker that he hoped she would win the prize. Although she uses techniques borrowed from fiction, her bases her work on hundreds of interviews with witnesses of and participants in the events she describes. In an interview she once said: “Art may lie but document never does.” The Nobel committee praised Alexievich “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”