Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarussian journalist and prose writer, was recognized for “for her polyphonic writings” and awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday.
The 67-year-old writer and journalist from Belarus is the 14th woman to receive the prestigious honor, which includes a gold medal and $1.2-million cash prize.
The chair of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, said Alexeivich’s work was a “monument to suffering and courage in our time”.
Alexievich was born on the 31 May 1948 in the Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankovsk into a family of a serviceman. Her father is Belarusian and her mother is Ukrainian. After her father’s demobilisation from the army the family returned to his native Belorussia and settled in a village where both parents worked as schoolteachers. She left school to work as a reporter on the local paper in the town of Narovl.
She has written short stories, essays and reportage but says she found her voice under the influence of the Belorusian writer Ales Adamovich, who developed a genre which he variously called the “collective novel”, “novel-oratorio”, “novel-evidence”, “people talking about themselves” and the “epic chorus”.
According to Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Alexeivich is an “extraordinary” writer.
Danius also praised Alexievich for devising “a new kind of literary genre”, and pointed new readers towards her first book U vojny ne ženskoe lico (War’s Unwomanly Face), based on interviews with hundreds of women who participated in the second world war.
“By means of her extraordinary method — a carefully composed collage of human voices — Alexievich deepens our comprehension of an entire era,” the academy said.
On her personal website, Alexievich explains her pursuit of journalism: “I chose a genre where human voices speak for themselves.”
“All of my books consist of witnesses’ evidence, people’s living voices,” she told theDalkey Archive Press. “I usually spend three to four years writing a book, but this time it took me more than ten years.”