On Thursday Oct. 8, Svetlana Alexievich was the fourteenth woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature by the Swedish Academy. An adamant journalist and prose writer, Alexievich, 67, is also the sixth Russian to win the award, the last being Ivan Bunin in 1933. She resides in Belorussia, and writes of politics and history with strong emotional context. By bringing journalism and prose writing together into a harmonious and unique writing style, “Alexievich deepens our comprehension of an entire era,” said the academy.
Not only is this style articulate, but it has created a whole new genre within itself. Alexievich’s political stature resides mainly in the work, and lives of female Russian soldiers in World War II, Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-89) and the 1986 Chernobyl Disaster, in which her sister was killed and her mother blinded in the tragedy. Some of her most famous works are “War’s Unwomanly Face” (1988), “Voices of Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster” (2005), and “Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices From a Forgotten War” (1992). Since her work is so emotionally, personally, and politically charged, Alexievich was not slow in expressing her enthusiasm over the award. “I’m very happy and overwhelmed by a storm of complex feelings,” she said earlier today. “Joy, of course. But alarm as well. The great shadows of Ivan Bunin, Boris Pasternak, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn have come alive. The greater part of my path has been traveled, but much work remains ahead of me, and many new turns. Now I cannot let myself slide.”