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Svetlana Alexievich

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Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexandrovna Alexievich (Russian: Светлана Александровна Алексиевич; Belarusian: Святлана Аляксандраўна Алексіевіч Svyatlana Alyaksandrawna Alyeksiyevich; born May 31, 1948) is a Belarusian investigative journalist and prose writer. In 2014, she was nominated by Ural Federal University for the 2014 Nobel Prize in literature.[1]


Svetlana Alexievich at a discussion in the Roter Salon (Red Salon) in Berlin, February 8, 2011

Born in the Ukrainian town of Stanislav (since 1962 Ivano-Frankivsk) to a Belarusian father and a Ukrainian mother, she grew up in Belarus. After finishing school, she worked as a reporter in several local newspapers, and then as a correspondent for the literary magazine Neman in Minsk[2]

She went on to a career in journalism and writing narratives from interviews with witnesses to the most dramatic events in the country, such as World War II, Soviet-Afghan war, fall of the Soviet Union, and Chernobyl disaster. After persecution by Lukashenko regime,[3] she left Belarus in 2000. The International Cities of Refuge Network offered her sanctuary and during the following decade she lived in Paris, Gothenburg and Berlin. In 2011 Alexievich moved back to Minsk.[4][5]

Her work

Her books are described as a literary chronicle of the emotional history of the Soviet and post-Soviet person. Her most notable works in English translation are about first-hand accounts from the war in Afghanistan (The Boys of Zinc) and a highly praised oral history of the Chernobyl disaster (Voices from Chernobyl). She describes the theme of her works this way:

If you look back at the whole of our history, both Soviet and post-Soviet, it is a huge common grave and a blood bath. An eternal dialog of the executioners and the victims. The accursed Russian questions: what is to be done and who is to blame. The revolution, the gulags, the Second World War, the Soviet-Afghan war hidden from the people, the downfall of the great empire, the downfall of the giant socialist land, the land-utopia, and now a challenge of cosmic dimensions - Chernobyl. This is a challenge for all the living things on earth. Such is our history. And this is the theme of my books, this is my path, my circles of hell, from man to man.

Her first book The Unwomanly Face of the War came out in 1985. It was repeatedly reprinted and sold out in more than two million copies. This novel is made up of monologues of women in the war speaking about the aspects of the World War II that had never been related before. Another book, The Last Witnesses: the Book of Unchildlike Stories describes personal memories of children during war time. The war seen through women's and children's eyes revealed a whole new world of feelings. In 1993, she published Enchanted with Death, a book about real and attempted suicides due to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Many people felt inseparable from the Communist ideology and unable to accept the new order and the newly interpreted history.

Alexievich's books have been published in many countries including US, Germany, UK, Japan, Sweden, France, China, Vietnam, Bulgaria, and India with a total of 19 countries in all. She has to her name 21 scripts for documentary films and three plays, which were staged in France, Germany, and Bulgaria.

Awards and honors

Alexievich has been awarded many international awards, including:

She is a member of the advisory committee of the Lettre Ulysses Award.

Her books

English translations

  • The Unwomanly Face of War, (extracts), from Always a Woman: Stories by Soviet Women Writers, Raduga Publishers, 1987.
  • War’s Unwomanly Face, Moscow : Progress Publishers, 1988, ISBN 5-01-000494-1
  • Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (Dalkey Archive Press 2005; ISBN 1-56478-401-0)
  • Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War (W W Norton & Co Inc 1992; ISBN 0-393-03415-1) Another edition: Zinky boys: Soviet voices from a forgotten war (The ones who came home in zinc boxes), translated by Julia and Robin Whitby. London : Chatto & Windus, 1992, ISBN 0-7011-3838-6.


  • Zacharovannye smertiu (Enchanted with Death), Moscow: Slovo, 1994. ISBN 5-85050-357-9
  • Poslednie svideteli : sto nedetskikh kolybelnykh (The Last Witnesses: the Book of Unchildlike Stories.), Moscow, Palmira, 2004, ISBN 5-94957-040-5.
  • Vremia sekond hend (Second-hand Time), Moscow: Vremia, 2013. ISBN 978-5-9691-1129-5


  1. ^ Blissett, Chelly. "Author Svetlana Aleksievich nominated for 2014 Nobel Prize". Yekaterinburg News. January 28, 2014. Retrieved January 28, 2014.
  2. ^ Brief biography of Svetlana Alexievich (Russian), from Who is who in Belorussia
  3. ^ Biography of Aleksievich at Lannan Foundation website
  4. ^ a b PEN Germany
  5. ^ The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
  6. ^ a b c "Svetlana Alexievich". internationales literaturfestival berlin. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Svetlana Alexievich: Voices from Big Utopia". Retrieved January 10, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels 2013". Retrieved January 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Fatou Jaw Manneh Amongst Four Writers Honoured By Oxfam Novib/PEN". FOROYAA Newspaper. 20 February 2008. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  10. ^ msh/ipj (dpa, KNA) (20 June 2013). "Svetlana Alexievich of Belarus wins German literary prize".  
  11. ^ """Marie Darrieussecq reçoit le prix Médicis pour "Il faut beaucoup aimer les hommes. Le Monde (in French). November 12, 2013. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 

External links

  • Svetlana Alexievich, author website.
  • Her biography
  • Svetlana Alexievich, fan website.
  • "A Conversation with Svetlana Alexievich", from The Center for Book Culture.
  • 'Voices of Chernobyl': Survivors' Stories, from National Public Radio, 21 April 2006.
  • A conspiracy of ignorance and obedience, an article about her in Telegraph Magazine
  • Svetlana Alexievich: Belarusian Language Is Rural And Literary Unripe
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