Svetlana Alexievich

2015 Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature
Country: Belarus
Fields of Expertise: Journalism, History of the Soviet Union

Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich is an internationally renowned journalist and writer and a dedicated critic of the regime of her country. Born in the western Ukrainian town of Stanislav, she grew up in Belarus, where her parents worked as school teachers. After finishing school, she worked as a reporter and an editor in several local newspapers before graduating from Belarusian State University (1972) and becoming a correspondent for the literary magazine Neman in Minsk (1976).

During her career in journalism, Alexievich specialized in crafting narratives based on witness testimonies, transcribing oral stories on many of Soviet history’s dramatic events, such as the Second World War, the Afghan War, the fall of the Soviet Union and the Chernobyl disaster. After political persecution by the Lukashenko administration, she left Belarus in 2000 and was offered sanctuary by the International Cities of Refuge Network. She would only go back to Minsk in 2012, having lived in Italy, France, Germany and Sweden for more than a decade.

Alexievich has created an original literary genre based on hundreds of interviews, which she skillfully intertwines in what may be described as documentary prose. This genre has been developed over her five great prose volumes, which represent an impressive history of Soviet people and humanity in general, exploring questions regarding war, ideology and the individual experience of life. Although Alexievich’s books have not been published by Belarusian State-owned publishing houses since 1993, they have been translated into 52 languages and published in 55 countries so far, inspiring several plays and documentaries all over the world. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature for her “polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”.

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