The Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 was awarded this morning to Belarus author Svetlana Alexievich “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”. She’s the 14th woman to be awarded the prize.
In addition to writing historical/political fiction, she’s also an investigative journalist and ornithologist. Her best known book in the west is Voices From Chernobyl, an oral history of the nuclear catastrophe. Openly critical of the repressive political regime in her home country, she has been obliged to spend most of her life living abroad.
Alexievich on humanizing the great political trends that are her focus:
“I don’t ask people about socialism, I ask about love, jealousy, childhood, old age. Music, dances, hairstyles. The myriad sundry details of a vanished way of life. This is the only way to chase the catastrophe into the framework of the mundane and attempt to tell a story. Try to figure things out. It never ceases to amaze me how interesting ordinary, everyday life is. There are an endless number of human truths… History is only interested in facts; emotions are excluded from its realm of interest. It’s considered improper to admit them into history. I look at the world as a writer, not strictly an historian. I am fascinated by people…”
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Nobel Prize in Literature: read it here.