Svetlana Alexievich

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Svetlana Alexievich
Swetlana Alexijewitsch 2013.jpg
Alexievich in 2013
Native name
Святлана Аляксандраўна Алексіевіч, Sviatlana Aliaksandraŭna Alieksijevič in the Belarusian Latin alphabet
BornSvetlana Alexandrovna Alexievich
(1948-05-31) 31 May 1948 (age 71)
Stanislav, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
OccupationJournalist, oral historian
Alma mater Belarusian State University
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Literature (2015)
Order of the Badge of Honour (1984)
Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (2013)
Prix Médicis (2013)

Signature Svetlana Alexijevich Autograph.jpg

Svetlana Alexandrovna Alexievich [1] (born 31 May 1948) is an Ukrainian-born Belarusian investigative journalist, essayist and oral historian who writes in Russian. She was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time". [2] [3] [4] [5] She is the first writer from Belarus to receive the award. [6] [7]

Nobel Prize in Literature One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Literature is a Swedish literature prize that is awarded annually, since 1901, to an author from any country who has, in the words of the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction". Though individual works are sometimes cited as being particularly noteworthy, the award is based on an author's body of work as a whole. The Swedish Academy decides who, if anyone, will receive the prize. The academy announces the name of the laureate in early October. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895. On some occasions the award has been postponed to the following year. It was not awarded in 2018, but two names will be awarded in 2019.



Born in the west Ukrainian town of Stanislav (since 1962 Ivano-Frankivsk) to a Belarusian father and a Ukrainian mother, [8] Svetlana Alexievich grew up in Belarus. After finishing school she worked as a reporter in several local newspapers before graduating from Belarusian State University (1972) and becoming a correspondent for the literary magazine Nyoman in Minsk (1976). [9]

Ivano-Frankivsk City of regional significance in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Ukraine

Ivano-Frankivsk is a historic city located in Western Ukraine. It is the administrative centre of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. Administratively, it is designated as a city of regional significance within the oblast, and together with a number of rural localities, is incorporated as Ivano-Frankivsk Municipality. Population: 230,929 (2016 est.).

Belarusian State University

Belarusian State University (BSU) is a university in Minsk, Belarus. It was founded on October 30, 1921.

Minsk Capital city in Belarus

Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus, situated on the Svislač and the Nyamiha Rivers. As the national capital, Minsk has a special administrative status in Belarus and is the administrative centre of Minsk Region (voblasć) and Minsk District (rajon). The population in January 2018 was 1,982,444, making Minsk the 11th most populous city in Europe. Minsk is the administrative capital of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and seat of its Executive Secretary.

During her career in journalism, Alexievich specialised in crafting narratives based on witness testimonies. In the process, she wrote oral histories of several dramatic events in Soviet history: the Second World War, [10] the Afghan War, [11] the fall of the Soviet Union, [10] and the Chernobyl disaster. [10] [12] After political persecution by the Lukashenko administration, [13] she left Belarus in 2000. [14] The International Cities of Refuge Network offered her sanctuary and during the following decade she lived in Paris, Gothenburg and Berlin. In 2011, Alexievich moved back to Minsk. [15] [16]

Soviet–Afghan War War between the Soviet Union and Afghan insurgents, 1979-89

The Soviet–Afghan War lasted over nine years, from December 1979 to February 1989. Insurgent groups known collectively as the mujahideen, as well as smaller Maoist groups, fought a guerrilla war against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government, mostly in the rural countryside. The mujahideen groups were backed primarily by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, making it a Cold War proxy war. Between 562,000 and 2,000,000 civilians were killed and millions of Afghans fled the country as refugees, mostly to Pakistan and Iran.

Chernobyl disaster 1986 nuclear accident

The Chernobyl disaster was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the No. 4 nuclear reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian SSR.

Alexander Lukashenko President of Belarus since 20 July 1994

Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko is a Belarusian politician serving as President of Belarus since the office was created on 20 July 1994. Before launching his political career, Lukashenko worked as director of a collective farm (kolkhoz) and spent time with the Soviet Border Troops and the Soviet Army. He was the only deputy to vote against the independence of Belarus from the Soviet Union.

Literary work

Alexievich's books trace the emotional history of the Soviet and post-Soviet individual through carefully constructed collages of interviews. [17] According to Russian writer and critic Dmitry Bykov, her books owe much to the ideas of Belarusian writer Ales Adamovich, who felt that the best way to describe the horrors of the 20th century was not by creating fiction but through recording the testimonies of witnesses. [18] Belarusian poet Uladzimir Nyaklyayew called Adamovich "her literary godfather". He also named the documentary novel I'm from the Burned Village (Belarusian : Я з вогненнай вёскі) by Ales Adamovich, Janka Bryl and Uladzimir Kalesnik, about the villages burned by the German troops during the occupation of Belarus, as the main single book that has influenced Alexievich's attitude to literature. [19] Alexievich has confirmed the influence of Adamovich and Belarusian writer Vasil Bykaŭ, among others. [20] She regards Varlam Shalamov as the best writer of the 20th century. [21]

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Dmitry Bykov Russian writer

Dmitry Lvovich Bykov is a Russian writer, poet and journalist. He is also known as biographer of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky.

Ales Adamovich Belarusian writer

Ales Adamovich was a Belarusian Soviet writer and a critic, Professor and Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Doctor of Philosophy in philology, Doctorate in 1962 ; member of the Supreme Soviet (1989–92). He wrote in Russian and Belarusian.

Her most notable works in English translation include a collection of first-hand accounts from the war in Afghanistan (Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from a Forgotten War) [22] and an oral history of the Chernobyl disaster (Chernobyl Prayer / Voices from Chernobyl). [23] Alexievich describes the theme of her works this way:

If you look back at the whole of our history, both Soviet and post-Soviet, it is a huge common grave and a blood bath. An eternal dialog of the executioners and the victims. The accursed Russian questions: what is to be done and who is to blame. The revolution, the gulags, the Second World War, the Soviet–Afghan war hidden from the people, the downfall of the great empire, the downfall of the giant socialist land, the land-utopia, and now a challenge of cosmic dimensions – Chernobyl. This is a challenge for all the living things on earth. Such is our history. And this is the theme of my books, this is my path, my circles of hell, from man to man. [24]

Her first book, War's Unwomanly Face, came out in 1985. It was repeatedly reprinted and sold more than two million copies. [22] The book was finished in 1983 and published (in short edition) in Oktyabr, a Soviet monthly literary magazine, in February 1984. [25] In 1985, the book was published by several publishers, and the number of printed copies reached 2,000,000 in the next five years. [26] This novel is made up of monologues of women in the war speaking about the aspects of World War II that had never been related before. [22] Another book, The Last Witnesses: the Book of Unchildlike Stories, describes personal memories of children during wartime. The war seen through women's and children's eyes revealed a new world of feelings. [27] In 1993, she published Enchanted with Death, a book about attempted and completed suicides due to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Many people felt inseparable from the Communist ideology and unable to accept the new order surely and the newly interpreted history. [28]

Her books were not published by Belarusian state-owned publishing houses after 1993, while private publishers in Belarus have only published two of her books: Chernobyl Prayer in 1999 and Second-hand Time in 2013, both translated into Belarusian. [29] As a result, Alexievich has been better known in the rest of world than in Belarus. [30]

She has been described as the first journalist to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. [31] She herself rejects the notion that she is a journalist, and, in fact, Alexievich’s chosen genre is sometimes called “documentary literature”: an artistic rendering of real events, with a degree of poetic license. [32]

Awards and honours

Alexievich has received many awards, including:

She is a member of the advisory committee of the Lettre Ulysses Award.


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  1. Her name is also transliterated as Aleksievich or Aleksiyevich. Belarusian : Святла́на Алякса́ндраўна Алексіе́вічSviatłana Alaksandraŭna AleksijevičBelarusian pronunciation:  [alʲɛksʲiˈjɛvʲit͡ʂ] ; Russian: Светла́на Алекса́ндровна Алексие́вичRussian pronunciation:  [ɐlʲɪksʲɪˈjevʲɪt͡ɕ] ; Ukrainian : Світлана Олександрівна Алексієвич.
  2. Blissett, Chelly. "Author Svetlana Aleksievich nominated for 2014 Nobel Prize". Yekaterinburg News. 28 January 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  3. Treijs, Erica (8 October 2015). "Nobelpriset i litteratur till Svetlana Aleksijevitj" [Nobel Prize in literature to Svetlana Aleksijevitj]. (in Swedish). Svenska Dagbladet . Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  4. Svetlana Alexievich wins Nobel Literature prize, BBC News (8 October 2015).
  5. Dickson, Daniel; Makhovsky, Andrei (8 October 2015). "Belarussian writer wins Nobel prize, denounces Russia over Ukraine". Stockholm/Minsk: Reuters . Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  6. "Svetlana Alexievich, investigative journalist from Belarus, wins Nobel Prize in Literature". 2013-10-13. Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  7. Colin Dwyer (2015-06-28). "Belarusian Journalist Svetlana Alexievich Wins Literature Nobel : The Two-Way". NPR. Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  8. "Remembering the Great Patriotic War was a political act". The Economist . 20 July 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  9. Brief biography of Svetlana Alexievich (Russian) Archived 2014-09-18 at the Wayback Machine , from Who is who in Belarus
  10. 1 2 3 "4 Books To Read By Svetlana Alexievitch, Nobel Prize Literature Winner And Ukrainian-Belarusian Author". 2015-10-08. Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  11. "Svetlana Alexievich's 'Zinky Boys' gives voice to the voiceless". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  12. Flood, Alison; Harding, Luke; agencies (2015-10-08). "Svetlana Alexievich wins 2015 Nobel prize in literature". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  13. Biography of Aleksievich at Lannan Foundation website
  14. "Svetlana Alexievich: The Empire Will Not Pass Away Without Bloodshed". 18 September 2014. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  15. 1 2 "Svetlana Alexievich". PEN-Zentrum Deutschland. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  16. "Winners of the Peace Prize". (in German). Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  17. Alter, Alexandra (8 October 2015). "Svetlana Alexievich Wins Nobel Prize in Literature". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  18. Быков, Дмитрий. О присуждении Светлане Алексиевич Нобелевской премии по литературе (in Russian). Echo of Moscow . Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  19. "Някляеў: Шанцы Беларусі на Нобелеўскую прэмію як ніколі высокія" (in Belarusian). Nasha Niva . Retrieved 8 October 2015. Original quote: "Калі ўся руская літаратура выйшла, як сцвярджаў Дастаеўскі, з «Шыняля» Гогаля, то ўся творчасць Алексіевіч – з дакументальнай кнігі Алеся Адамовіча, Янкі Брыля і Уладзіміра Калесніка «Я з вогненнай вёскі». Адамовіч — яе літаратурны хросны". Rough translation: "If the entire Russian literature came, as Dostoyevsky stated, from the Gogol's Overcoat, then the entire writings of Alexievich came from the documentary book of Ales Adamovich, Yanka Bryl and Uladzimir Kalesnik I'm from the flamy village. Adamovich is her literary godfather".
  20. "Svetlana Alexievich: It is not my victory alone, but also a victory of our culture and the country". Belarusian Telegraph Agency. 2015-10-08. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  21. Алексиевич: "Есть мой путь, и я иду этим путём" [Alexievich interview] (in Russian). BBC News. 24 December 2015.
  22. 1 2 3 Osipovich, Alexander (19 March 2004). "True Stories". The Moscow Times . Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  23. "Voices From Chernobyl". Fairewinds Education. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  24. "THE CHRONICLER OF THE UTOPIAN LAND". Svetlana Alexievich. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  25. С. Алексиевич. У войны — не женское лицо. Октябрь, 1984(2). (S. Alexievich. War's Unwomanly Face. Oktyabr, 1984(2).)
  26. Карпов, Евгений (8 October 2015). Светлана Алексиевич получила Нобелевскую премию по литературе – первую в истории Беларуси. (in Russian). Tut.By . Retrieved 8 October 2015. Quote: "Первая книга — «У войны не женское лицо» — была готова в 1983 и пролежала в издательстве два года. Автора обвиняли в пацифизме, натурализме и развенчании героического образа советской женщины. «Перестройка» дала благотворный толчок."
  27. Golesnik, Sergey (16 July 2009). "Black-and-white war monologues stir hearts" (PDF). The Minsk Times. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  28. Saxena, Ranjana. "On Reading 'Enchanted with Death' by Svetlana Aleksievich: Narratives of Nostalgia and Loss". 2013 ICCEES IX World Congress. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  29. Госиздательства Беларуси не выпускали книги Алексиевич больше 20 лет. (in Russian). Tut.By. 8 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  30. Впервые за долгое время премия вручается автору в жанре нон-фикшн. Kommersant (in Russian). 8 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015. Quote: "Но она известно гораздо больше за пределами Белоруссии, чем в Белоруссии. Она уважаемый европейский писатель".
  31. Svetlana Alexievich wins Nobel Literature prize, by BBC
  32. Pinkham, Sophie (29 August 2016). "Witness Tampering". The New Republic . Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  33. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Сергей Чупринин: Русская литература сегодня: Зарубежье. М.: Время, 2008 г. ISBN   978-5-9691-0292-7
  34. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2017-06-28.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  35. 1 2 3 "Svetlana Alexievich". internationales literaturfestival berlin. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
  36. 1 2 "Svetlana Alexievich: Voices from Big Utopia" . Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  37. "Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels 2013" (in German). Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  38. "Fatou Jaw Manneh Amongst Four Writers Honoured By Oxfam Novib/PEN". FOROYAA Newspaper. 20 February 2008. Archived from the original on 7 January 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
  39. "Svetlana Alexievich Named Winner of the Angelus Central European Literary Award" . Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  40. msh/ipj (dpa, KNA) (20 June 2013). "Svetlana Alexievich of Belarus wins German literary prize". Deutsche Welle . Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  41. "Marie Darrieussecq reçoit le prix Médicis pour "Il faut beaucoup aimer les hommes"". Le Monde (in French). 12 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  42. Armitstead, Claire; Flood, Alison; Bausells, Marta (8 October 2015). "Nobel prize in literature: Svetlana Alexievich wins 'for her polyphonic writings' – live". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  43. "John Pomfret's "The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom" Wins 2017 CFR Arthur Ross Book Award". Council on Foreign Relations. November 15, 2017. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  44. "Svetlana Alexievich Biography and Interview". American Academy of Achievement.
  45. 1992: Auszug
  46. Eine Stimme der Sprachlosen., 20. Juni 2013, abgerufen am 20. Juni 2013



Articles about Svetlana Alexievich

Academic Articles about Svetlana Alexievich's works