The Swedish Academy has announced the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, Svetlana Alexievich. Alexievich, the first author from Belarus to win the prize and the 14th woman out of 107 award winners, is known for her hard-hitting journalistic work, particularly Voices From Chernobyl: the Oral history of a Nuclear Disaster, which documents the nuclear disaster in Ukraine. On her website, Alexievich explained why she chose journalism, with an emphasis on eye-witness accounts:
“I’ve been searching for a genre that would allow the closest possible approximation to how I see and hear the world. Finally I chose the genre of actual human voices and confessions. Today when man and world have become so multifaceted and diversified, when we finally realized how mysterious and unfathomable man really is, a story of one life, or rather the documentary evidence of this story, brings us closest to reality.”
Her endeavour in achieving this literary goal has not gone unnoticed. Evidently, the Nobel Committee found her approach successful, stating that she was awarded the Nobel Prize, “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”
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Alexievich heavily researches her topics, choosing to let interviews with eyewitnesses tell the stories of the tragedies she investigates, as seen in Zinky Boys: Record of a Lost Soviet Generation about the Soviet-Afghan War. Rather than a fact-based retelling of history, Alexievich’s account of history is profoundly human. According to CNN, Alexievich stated, “I’m writing a history of human feelings…What people thought, understood and remembered during the event.” She finds that recording what everyday people have to say can be, and often is, the most accurate way to understand and reflect on historical events.
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