An “extraordinary” author who chronicled the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has won the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature. Svetlana Alexievich of Belarus was awarded the Nobel Prize “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” She has authored the Voices of Chernobyl, among other books. Alexievich is the only 14th woman to win the Nobel in literature that has been awarded 107 times since 1901.
Nobel Prize is rarely awarded to non-fiction writers
Notably, the Nobel committee has rarely given the prize to non-fiction writers. Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy said Alexievich has “devised a new genre, a new kind of literary genre.” On her website, the Belarusian author says she records conversations with more than 500 people for each book she writes.
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Born in May, 1948 in Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankovsk, Alexievich moved with her parents to Belarus where her parents settled in a village and worked as schoolteachers. She left formal schooling to work as a reporter for a local paper. Alexievich was influenced by Belarusian author Ales Adamovich. She has written essays, short stories, and reportage. Alexievich’s next book is Second-hand Time is due to come out next year.
Alexievich writes a history of emotions
Nobel secretary Sara Danius said Alexievich has spent the last 3-4 decades mapping the Soviet and post-Soviet individual. What she offers to the world is not a history of events, but a history of emotions. She has written about the Chernobyl disaster, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and many other events. She has conducted thousands of interviews of people from all age groups.
Most of her books are difficult to categorize. They are technically non-fiction. Alexievich says on her website that she doesn’t document a dry history of events and facts. Instead, she writes a history of human feelings, what they felt, thought, understood, and remembered during an event; and the illusions, hopes and fears they experienced.
The Nobel Prize is worth close to $1 million.