The publishing director for Literature Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich says she deserves the prize because her books not only show real life in the former Soviet republics but are life itself.
BERLIN, GERMANY (OCTOBER 8, 2015) (REUTERS) – Belarussian author Svetlana Alexievich has won the Nobel Prize for Literature for her portrayal of life in the former Soviet Union which the Swedish Academy said was “a monument to suffering and courage in our time”.
Alexievich’s work includes chronicles of the lives of Soviet women during the Second World War as well as of the consequences of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl and the Russian war in Afghanistan told from the perspective of ordinary citizens.
She collected hundreds of interviews of people impacted by these tumultuous events, putting them together in works that the academy said were like a “musical composition.”
Her publisher in Berlin, Hanser Verlag director Karsten Kredel, said on Thursday (October 8) that he was very moved that this author has won the prize, “because reading her is one of the most intense and most incredible things you can possibly do.”
He also praised her for portraying life in the countries of the former Soviet Union. “If anyone wants to understand what is happening in those countries, in Russia, in Ukraine, in Belarus, he or she has to read Svetlana Alexievich’s work, there’s nothing better than that,” Kredel told Reuters TV. “I think you can’t even say that her books are about life, her books are life itself.”
Kredel also likened her books to a musical composition, as the Swedish Academy did. “It’s people whose voices would not have been heard otherwise. And she arranges those voices to a king of chorus. And this chorus amounts to something like an epic of that empire that doesn’t exist anymore. But also of the present there,” he said.
Her publisher said that he hopes that Alexievich will now be read more widely. She is not published in many countries, not even, or especially not, in her home country, he added. “I hope that it will be more difficult to silence her at home. And I hope it will be much easier for people in the west to access her work now.”
Alexievich, born in 1948 in Ukraine, worked as a teacher and a journalist after finishing school. She lived in exile abroad for many years, including in Sweden, Germany and France, due to her criticism of the Belarus government.
Her books include “Voices from Chernobyl – Chronicle of the Future”, and “Zinky Boys – Soviet voices from a forgotten war”, a portrayal of the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan.
Alexievich’s documentary style of writing first became popular in the former Soviet Union in the 1980s. But she has long been an uncomfortable writer for the authorities due to her humanistic, emotional tales of peoples’ fates entangled in major historic developments.
One of her best-known works is “War’s Unwomanly Face”, which took several years to get published as Soviet authorities saw it as subversive and undermining the myth of the Soviet army’s victory in World War Two.
In the book, Alexievich offers an unusual account of the war, moving away from military narrative and telling the tales of Soviet women who took on male roles, fought on the front lines, killed and were killed, but still looked at the shattered world around them from a feminine perspective, focusing on human suffering and basic emotions free of any pathos.
Literature was the fourth of this year’s Nobel prizes. The prize is named after dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.