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Svetlana Alexievich wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Svetlana Alexievich

Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature.

(MAXIM MALINOVSKY / AFP/Getty Images)

Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich is the 2015 Nobel Prize winner in literature. She was commended by the Swedish Academy for “her polyphonic writing, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”

Alexievich, who lives in Minsk, is known for her close takes on the post-Soviet individual, conducting thousands of interviews for her books. Yet she has also chronicled major events in world history: the accident at Chernobyl, the Soviet engagement in Afghanistan, and World War II as remembered by female veterans.

Books of hers published in America include  “War’s Unwomanly Face” and “Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster.”

It’s a major move for the literature award to go to a writer of nonfiction. While past prize-winning authors have worked as journalists, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, they have primarily been known for writing poetry or fiction.

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“The material that she’s offering us -- she’s actually devised a new kind of literary genre -- that speaks to her achievement,” said Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy. “Her literary achievement is material and also form.”

In a past interview, Alexievich described her desire to create her unique narrative form. “I’ve been searching for a literary method that would allow the closest possible approximation to real life. Reality has always attracted me like a magnet, it tortured and hypnotized me, I wanted to capture it on paper,” she explained. “So I immediately appropriated this genre of actual human voices and confessions, witness evidences and documents. This is how I hear and see the world -- as a chorus of individual voices and a collage of everyday details. This is how my eye and ear function. In this way all my mental and emotional potential is realized to the full. In this way I can be simultaneously a writer, reporter, sociologist, psychologist and preacher.”

Book news and more; I’m @paperhaus on Twitter

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