Five Things You Need to Know About Nobel Prize Winner Svetlana Alexievich

Posted by Jade on October 8, 2015

Kabul, 1988



Svetlana Alexievich was doing the ironing when she got the call: Congratulations, you are the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. Her response was a single word: "Fantastic."

According to Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Alexievich, a Belarusian author known for her deeply humanist books, is "mapping the Soviet and post-Soviet individual. But it's not really a history of events. It's a history of emotions." Alexievich has written about Chernobyl in Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster), the Afghanistan War in Zinky Boys, and women in World War II in War's Unwomanly Face.

Here's some more you need to know about Svetlana Alexievich:

- She's part of an elite club: Alexievich is the 14th woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature—it has been awarded 107 times. Half of those wins have been in the past 25 years. (In 2013 Alice Munro won.)

- Her early years were a struggle: In 1983 Alexievich completed her bestseller, War's Unwomanly Face, which gathers the voices of 200 Soviet women who went to war in 1941. It was destroyed by the Communist Party for "de-glorification of the heroic Soviet woman." Two years later, Gorbachev took office and the political climate changed. The book was finally published and has since sold more than 2 million copies.

- She speaks for the people: Each of her books is a distillation of interviews with 500 to 700 different people. "I don’t ask people about socialism, I ask about love, jealousy, childhood, old age,” Alexievich writes. “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."

- The Nobel Prize is not just about glory!: The prize money of 8 million Swedish krona ($971,000) has given her "freedom", says Alexievich, who will be working on two new books.

- She has heroes: Alexievich cites Ales Adamovich as a primary influence. The Belarusian author wrote what he called "collective" novels. Nurse and author Sofia Fedorchenko's accounts of soldiers' experiences during the First World War were also an important influence.


Comments Showing 1-37 of 37 (37 new)

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message 1: by Erma (new)

Erma Talamante An amazing woman, to be sure! Will have to find some of her work...


message 2: by Alma Q (last edited Oct 08, 2015 05:06PM) (new)

Alma Q Alice Munro won in 2013, so not exactly "last year" as the article says. ;) Otherwise, great that Alexievich's immediately getting attention on here, too. She sounds almost like the perfect winner to me.


message 3: by Jade (new)

Jade Scylla wrote: "Alice Munro won in 2013, so not exactly "last year" as the article says. ;) Otherwise, great that Alexievich's immediately getting attention on here, too. She sounds almost like the perfect winner ..."

We're just trying to stop the years from rushing by so quickly. ;)
Seriously though, thanks for catching that, Scylla. Error corrected!


message 4: by Alma Q (new)

Alma Q Ha. If you ever do find a way to stop time, or at least to slow it down a bit, I'm sure that would earn you more than just a Nobel prize - and I for one would be very grateful.

Thanks for correcting it so quicly!


message 5: by Danuta (new)

Danuta Exceptionally good writing, cant get enough!


message 6: by Jessica (last edited Oct 08, 2015 06:50PM) (new)

Jessica I read War's Unwomanly Face for a research project in college--it's a great book. This post was really interesting--I had no idea she just won the Nobel Prize!


message 7: by Rana (new)

Rana Congratulations to great womem! She won't be doing any ironing now I guess. I love human stories, they help bring nations together and make you aware of how much we as humans have in common regardless if race, color or anything elsr.


message 8: by Kusagra (new)

Kusagra Bhatia Nice Book.......
Exceptionally good written skills...

Keep writing.........
InterviewQuestion


Pantomime Python I'm Reading Voices from Chernobyl right now. Such a difficult book to read. So happy for Svatlana.


message 10: by Sennett (new)

Sennett Just 14 out of 107 winners were women? That's ridiculous.


message 11: by Ayesha (new)

Ayesha ONLY FOURTEEN WOMEN!seriously most books i read are written by women.....i always thought men authors were extinct.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

An inspiration to us all!


message 13: by Mervat (new)

Mervat Eissa Murkami for God Sake!!


message 14: by Ariel (new)

Ariel Correction: the award has been given 112 times. There are years when it has been awarded to multiple people.


message 15: by Duane (new)

Duane Ayesha wrote: "ONLY FOURTEEN WOMEN!seriously most books i read are written by women.....i always thought men authors were extinct."

yeah, but you're dealing with the Nobel Nitwits - people who will give a Peace Prize to a P.O.S. like Obama or Arafat. so if you think they are going to give a Literature Prize to somebody like Kathy Acker or Camille Paglia, I've got a bridge I'll sell you...


message 16: by Billy (new)

Billy O'Callaghan For me, the best thing about the Nobel Prize is when it shines a light on less appreciated talent, so I have to say, I am excited by this choice.


☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣ Her war writings are incredible! People have to know what kind of horror is war.


message 18: by Monica (new)

Monica Ferreira da Costa totally agree!


message 19: by Ayesha (new)

Ayesha last year malala yosaf zai was awarded nobel prize for peace...and she is a girl in her teens.Books like harry potter,divergent trilogy,hunger games ARE WRITTEN BY WOMEN


message 20: by Duane (new)

Duane Yeah, well, all that fantasy crap doesn't exactly speak well of either "gender" who writes it.

But Paglia is a genius... As was Hannah Arendt. Probably, they're just too intelligent for something on the order of a Nobel committee to understand... (And they're certainly not "trendy" enough.)


message 21: by Leslie (new)

Leslie I don't get why so many people are offeded than just 14 woman won the nobel price. I mean sweden is like the most feminist country in the world, so if they don't select more women, i don't think it's due to sexism. The price shouldn't be about equality it should be about quality. Dont get me wrong i don't say there isn't good woman author, there is plenty of them of course. But are they the best ? That's the question to ask. I feel like some would want us to give the price to women just for the sake of it, wich would be pretty stupid. Now i think there is more and more talented women author (probably due to the fact that they are now much more educated, and free to write, wich wasn't always the case in history) and so maybe the price will be given more often to them and maybe one day they will be the majority of the winners, who knows ? But that shouldn't be based ont their gender.

Otherwise i think it's great that Svetlana Alexievich won it this year, so congratulation to her.


message 22: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey Leslie wrote: "I don't get why so many people are offeded than just 14 woman won the nobel price. I mean sweden is like the most feminist country in the world, so if they don't select more women, i don't think it..."

Quality is a social construct like anything else, and an imbalance when it comes to the demographics of its representatives is, as it always has been, a demonstration of power. If you have any interest in the growth potential of the term "quality", restricting samples of such to only a part of the general population and complaining whenever anyone insists otherwise is a very poor way of showing it.


message 23: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Aubrey wrote: "Leslie wrote: "I don't get why so many people are offeded than just 14 woman won the nobel price. I mean sweden is like the most feminist country in the world, so if they don't select more women, i..."

I don't complain about peeople insisting otherwise. i don't think it would be a bad thing to have equality for the prize. But it shouldn't be the purpose of it. If we end up with equlity it should be for the good reasons. My comment was about certain poeple that would like to give the price to women just for being women, even if they might be less meritant of it than some men. And this would be unfair. It shouldn't be based on gender that's it. The ideal would be to not even know the gender of the author, because it doesn't matter.


message 24: by Erma (new)

Erma Talamante Leslie wrote: "Aubrey wrote: "Leslie wrote: "I don't get why so many people are offeded than just 14 woman won the nobel price. I mean sweden is like the most feminist country in the world, so if they don't selec..."

Agreed! The question should not be about the gender of the author, but rather (as it seems) of whether that author has elicited a positive voice or change for humanity. "There is no male or female" in change, but rather action...


message 25: by Indrayudh (new)

Indrayudh I'd really like to read some of her books now. Her approach to writing seems so familiar, and warm.

"The myriad sundry details of a vanished way of life."


message 26: by Ayesha (new)

Ayesha Duane wrote: "Yeah, well, all that fantasy crap doesn't exactly speak well of either "gender" who writes it.

But Paglia is a genius... As was Hannah Arendt. Probably, they're just too intelligent for something ..."


"normal people" read a lot of fantasy crap probably because it is trending like the way they buy iphones and not Qmobiles.


message 27: by Ayesha (new)

Ayesha It is reality that a lot of us now know about her books because she won the nobel prize.But it is good to know that she is getting appreciation for her work.


message 28: by Dramatika (new)

Dramatika Another fact is that she writes exclusively in non fiction. Her books are more like a collection of interviews (that's why it take her so long to write a single book) on a given topic, almost all of them on quite heavy subjects; like wars, nuclear disasters and transformation of society after USSR collapse. She writes in Russian.


message 29: by B.R. (new)

B.R. Fleming If one looks at the list of women who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction,” one might say a trend appears which counters the trend for other winners of the prize. Notably, the few women who have won the prize almost invariable have contributed, according to the comments from the committee rationale, either through literary excellence (the lesser category) or through the use of literature to highlight attention on a sociological travesty (the more common category). Males who have won the prize almost invariably receive rationale based on literary excellence or contribution to the realm of literary achievement. Yet, if one considers that the prize for Literature has been awarded 112 times since 1901 and that only 14 women have won the prize, why have women such as Ingrid Jonker, Sylvia Plath, Lillian Hellman, Flannery O'Connor, Margaret Atwood, Anita Desai, Kate Chopin, Carson McCullers, Virginia Wolfe, Willa Cather, Maya Angelou, and a host of others been omitted from receiving the award? All of those authors and others have contributed "outstanding work in an ideal direction” in one way or another, and quite recognizably from critical observation, yet have not been recognized by the Nobel committee for their contribution. One cannot help but consider a gender bias under those circumstances. With the trend in the last several decades to honor more women (8/14 women since 1991), however, maybe more female authors will receive the recognition they deserve . . .


message 30: by Wayne (new)

Wayne I like, am intrigued, by those, men AND women,who refuse to accept prizes...whether it be an Academy Award or an Honour from England's Queen.
Winning a prize is always at the expense of Talented Others. These days even cooking a delicious meal has become a Competitive Pastime lorded over by Imperious, Know-it-All Chefs. I LOVED the Two Fat Ladies who derided chefs..." a Good Cook is the person who can create a feast with what she/he finds in their refrigerator"...they LOVED cooking and food and feeding others...NO SIGN of COMPETITION.
IT's like the way fans took sides when it came to Joan Sutherland and Maria Callas, constantly quarrelling over who was BETTER.
I CHOSE BOTH...they BOTH had something SPECIAL to offer as did that List of Women Writers who 'FAILED' to win a Nobel Prize...who cares!!!
They have proved they were ALL winners.


message 31: by Duane (new)

Duane B.R. wrote: "If one looks at the list of women who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction..."

Ahh... THank you. "Ideal" Direction - THAT explains it. All you have to do is ask, *whose* ideal?

In "Eichmann in Jerusalem", Hannah Arendt wrote what was probably the most incisive analysis of the Holocaust ever written. But it was brutally honest - she took NO prisoners. It was even banned in Israel, apparently it was too honest for *them*, even.

I'm sure her "Direction" wasn't "Ideal" for the dribbling nitwits on the Nobel committee. Easier on their tiny minds to just reward fluff like Gabriel García Márquez. Besides, he's a Communist - that makes his "Direction" "Ideal" for sure...


message 32: by A. (new)

A. Congratulations to the winner - I need to do some catching up by reading these books.


message 33: by Otite (new)

Otite Well it was a nice choice for the committee to have chosen her...


message 34: by Rockee (new)

Rockee Balboa a longtime critic of the Soviet regime and more recently of the Russian government, she has won http://newsboy411.blogspot.com/
News Boy 411


message 35: by Lu (new)

Lu I'll read her works


message 36: by David (new)

David Hofmann Nach Sara Danius, ewiger Sekretär des schwedischen Instituts, ist Alexievich, ein weißrussischer Schriftsteller Kamagra http://www.kamagrakaufensie.com/ der ihre zutiefst humanistische Bücher "die sowjetischen und postsowjetische Person Zuordnungen. Wie dem auch sei, ist es nicht so sehr eine Vergangenheit voller Gelegenheiten.


message 37: by Debodyuti (new)

Debodyuti Roy A single word "RESPECT". _/\_


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