Svetlana Alexievich

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Svetlana Alexievich
Swetlana Alexijewitsch 2013.jpg
Alexievich in 2013
Native name Святлана Аляксандраўна Алексіевіч
Born Svetlana Alexandrovna Alexievich
(1948-05-31) 31 May 1948 (age 67)
Stanislaviv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Occupation Journalist, author
Language Russian
Nationality Belarusian
Alma mater Belarusian State University
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Literature (2015)
Order of the Badge of Honour (1984)
Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (2013)
Prix Médicis (2013)
This name uses Eastern Slavic naming customs; the patronymic is Alexandrovna and the family name is Alexievich.

Svetlana Alexandrovna Alexievich[1] (born 31 May 1948 in Stanislaviv, Ukraine) is a Belarusian investigative journalist and non-fiction prose writer who writes in Russian. She was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time".[2][3][4][5] She is the first writer from Belarus to receive the award.[6][7]


Born in the west Ukrainian town of Stanislaviv (since 1962 Ivano-Frankivsk) to a Belarusian father and a Ukrainian mother, Svetlana Alexievich grew up in Belarus. After finishing school she worked as a reporter in several local newspapers before graduating from Belarusian State University (1972) and becoming a correspondent for the literary magazine Neman in Minsk (1976).[8]

During her career in journalism, Alexievich specialised in crafting narratives based on witness testimonies. In the process, she wrote oral histories of several dramatic events in Soviet history: the Second World War, the Afghan War, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the Chernobyl disaster. After political persecution by the Lukashenko administration,[9] she left Belarus in 2000.[10] 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.[11][12]

Literary work[edit]

Her books are described as a literary chronicle of the emotional history of the Soviet and post-Soviet individual, as told by means of a carefully constructed collage of interviews.[13] According to Russian writer and critic Dmitry Bykov, her books owe much to the ideas of Belarusian writer Ales Adamovich, who felt that the best way to describe the horrors of the 20th century was not by creating fiction but through recording the testimonies of witnesses.[14] Belarusian poet Uladzimir Nyaklyayew called Adamovich "her literary godfather". He also named the documentary novel I'm from the Burned Village (Belarusian: Я з вогненнай вёскі) by Ales Adamovich, Janka Bryl and Uladzimir Kalesnik, about the villages burned by the Nazi troops during the occupation of Belarus, as the main single book that has influenced Alexievich's attitude to literature.[15] Alexievich has confirmed the influence of Adamovich and Belarusian writer Vasil Bykaŭ, among others.[16] She regards Varlam Shalamov as the best writer of the 20th century.[17]

Her most notable works in English translation include a collection of first-hand accounts from the war in Afghanistan (Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from a Forgotten War)[18] and a highly praised oral history of the Chernobyl disaster (Voices from Chernobyl).[19] Alexievich 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.[20]

Her first book, War's Unwomanly Face, came out in 1985. It was repeatedly reprinted and sold more than two million copies.[18] The book was finished in 1983 and published (in short edition) in Oktyabr, a Soviet monthly literary magazine, in February 1984.[21] In 1985, the book was published by several publishers, and the number of printed copies reached 2,000,000 in the next five years.[22] This novel is made up of monologues of women in the war speaking about the aspects of World War II that had never been related before.[18] 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 new world of feelings.[23] In 1993, she published Enchanted with Death, a book about attempted and completed suicides due to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Many people felt inseparable from the Communist ideology and unable to accept the new order surely and the newly interpreted history.[24]

Her books were not published by Belarusian state-owned publishing houses after 1993, while private publishers in Belarus have only published two of her books: Voices from Chernobyl in 1999 and Second-hand Time in 2013, both translated into Belarusian.[25] As a result, Alexievich has been better known in the rest of world than in Belarus.[26]

She has been described as the first journalist to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.[27]


  • У войны не женское лицо (U voyny ne zhenskoe litso, War Does Not Have a Woman's Face), Minsk: Mastatskaya litaratura, 1985.
    • (English) The Unwomanly Face of War, (extracts), from Always a Woman: Stories by Soviet Women Writers, Raduga Publishers, 1987.
    • (English) War’s Unwomanly Face, Moscow : Progress Publishers, 1988, ISBN 5-01-000494-1.
    • (German) Der Krieg hat kein weibliches Gesicht. Henschel, Berlin 1987, ISBN 978-3-362-00159-5.
    • (German) New, expanded edition; übersetzt von Ganna-Maria Braungardt. Hanser Berlin, München 2013, ISBN 978-3-446-24525-9.
  • Цинковые мальчики (Tsinkovye malchiki, Zinc-Covered Boys), Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1991.
    • (English) Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War (W W Norton & Co Inc 1992; ISBN 0-393-03415-1) Other 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.
    • (German) Zinkjungen. Afghanistan und die Folgen. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 978-3-10-000816-9.[28]
    • (German) New, expanded edition; Hanser Berlin, München 2014, ISBN 978-3-446-24528-0.*Зачарованные смертью (Zacharovannye smertyu, Enchanted with Death), Moscow: Slovo, 1994. ISBN 5-85050-357-9
  • Чернобыльская молитва (Chernobylskaya molitva, Chernobyl Prayer), Moscow: Ostozhye, 1997. ISBN 5-86095-088-8
  • Последние свидетели: сто недетских колыбельных (Poslednie svideteli: sto nedetskikh kolybelnykh, The Last Witnesses: A Hundred of Unchildlike Lullabys), Moscow, Palmira, 2004, ISBN 5-94957-040-5 (first edition: Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1985)
    • (German) Die letzten Zeugen. Kinder im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Neues Leben, Berlin 1989; neu: Aufbau, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-7466-8133-2. (Originaltitel: Poslednyje swedeteli). Neubearbeitung und Aktualisierung 2008. Aus dem Russischen von Ganna-Maria Braungardt. Berlin: Hanser-Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3446246478
  • Время секонд хэнд (Vremya sekond khend, Second-hand Time), Moscow: Vremia, 2013. ISBN 978-5-9691-1129-5
    • (Belarusian) Час сэканд-хэнд (Канец чырвонага чалавека) / Святлана Алексіевіч. Перакл. з руск. Ц. Чарнякевіч, В. Стралко. — Мн.: Логвінаў, 2014. — 384 с. — (Бібліятэка Саюза беларускіх пісьменнікаў «Кнігарня пісьменніка»; выпуск 46). — ISBN 978-985-562-096-0.
    • (German) Secondhand-Zeit. Leben auf den Trümmern des Sozialismus. Hanser Berlin, München 2013, ISBN 978-3-446-24150-3; als Taschenbuch: Suhrkamp, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-518-46572-1.[29]
  • Зачарованные смертью (Zacharovannye Smertyu, Enchanted with Death) (Belarusian: 1993, Russian: 1994)
    • (German) Im Banne des Todes. Geschichten russischer Selbstmörder. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 1994, ISBN 3-10-000818-9).
    • (German) Seht mal, wie ihr lebt. Russische Schicksale nach dem Umbruch. Berlin (Aufbau, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-7466-7020-9.

Awards and honours[edit]

Alexievich has been awarded many awards, including:

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


  1. ^ Her name is also transliterated as Aleksievich or Aleksiyevich. Belarusian: Святлана Аляксандраўна Алексіевіч Sviatłana Alaksandraŭna Aleksijevič Belarusian pronunciation: [alʲɛksʲiˈjɛvʲit͡ʂ]; Russian: Светла́на Алекса́ндровна Алексие́вич Russian pronunciation: [ɐlʲɪksʲɪˈjevʲɪt͡ɕ]; Ukrainian: Світлана Олександрівна Алексієвич.
  2. ^ Blissett, Chelly. "Author Svetlana Aleksievich nominated for 2014 Nobel Prize". Yekaterinburg News. 28 January 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  3. ^ Treijs, Erica (8 October 2015). "Nobelpriset i litteratur till Svetlana Aleksijevitj" [Nobel Prize in literature to Svetlana Aleksijevitj]. (in Swedish). Svenska Dagbladet. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  4. ^ Svetlana Alexievich wins Nobel Literature prize, BBC News (8 October 2015).
  5. ^ Dickson, Daniel; Makhovsky, Andrei (8 October 2015). "Belarussian writer wins Nobel prize, denounces Russia over Ukraine". Stockholm/Minsk: Reuters. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "Svetlana Alexievich, investigative journalist from Belarus, wins Nobel Prize in Literature". 2013-10-13. Retrieved 2015-10-08. 
  7. ^ Colin Dwyer (2015-06-28). "Belarusian Journalist Svetlana Alexievich Wins Literature Nobel : The Two-Way". NPR. Retrieved 2015-10-08. 
  8. ^ Brief biography of Svetlana Alexievich (Russian), from Who is who in Belarus
  9. ^ Biography of Aleksievich at Lannan Foundation website
  10. ^ "Svetlana Alexievich: The Empire Will Not Pass Away Without Bloodshed". 18 September 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Svetlana Alexievich". PEN-Zentrum Deutschland. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  12. ^ "Winners of the Peace Prize". (in German). Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  13. ^ Alter, Alexandra (8 October 2015). "Svetlana Alexievich Wins Nobel Prize in Literature". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  14. ^ Быков, Дмитрий. "О присуждении Светлане Алексиевич Нобелевской премии по литературе". Echo of Moscow. Retrieved 8 October 2015.  (Russian)
  15. ^ "Някляеў: Шанцы Беларусі на Нобелеўскую прэмію як ніколі высокія". Nasha Niva. Retrieved 8 October 2015.  (Belarusian) Original quote: "Калі ўся руская літаратура выйшла, як сцвярджаў Дастаеўскі, з «Шыняля» Гогаля, то ўся творчасць Алексіевіч – з дакументальнай кнігі Алеся Адамовіча, Янкі Брыля і Уладзіміра Калесніка «Я з вогненнай вёскі». Адамовіч — яе літаратурны хросны". Rough translation: "If the entire Russian literature came, as Dostoyevsky stated, from the Gogol's Overcoat, then the entire writings of Alexievich came from the documentary book of Ales Adamovich, Yanka Bryl and Uladzimir Kalesnik I'm from the flamy village. Adamovich is her literary godfather".
  16. ^ "Svetlana Alexievich: It is not my victory alone, but also a victory of our culture and the country". Belarusian Telegraph Agency. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  17. ^ "Алексиевич: "Есть мой путь, и я иду этим путём"" [Alexievich interview]. BBC (in Russian). 24 December 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c Osipovich, Alexander (19 March 2004). "True Stories". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  19. ^ "Voices From Chernobyl". Fairewinds Education. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  20. ^ "THE CHRONICLER OF THE UTOPIAN LAND". Svetlana Alexievich. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  21. ^ С. Алексиевич. У войны — не женское лицо. Октябрь, 1984(2). (S. Alexievich. War's Unwomanly Face. Oktyabr, 1984(2).)
  22. ^ Карпов, Евгений (8 October 2015). "Светлана Алексиевич получила Нобелевскую премию по литературе – первую в истории Беларуси". Tut.By. Retrieved 8 October 2015.  (Russian) Quote: "Первая книга — «У войны не женское лицо» — была готова в 1983 и пролежала в издательстве два года. Автора обвиняли в пацифизме, натурализме и развенчании героического образа советской женщины. «Перестройка» дала благотворный толчок."
  23. ^ Golesnik, Sergey (16 July 2009). "Black-and-white war monologues stir hearts" (PDF). The Minsk Times. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  24. ^ Saxena, Ranjana. "On Reading 'Enchanted with Death' by Svetlana Aleksievich: Narratives of Nostalgia and Loss". 2013 ICCEES IX World Congress. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  25. ^ "Госиздательства Беларуси не выпускали книги Алексиевич больше 20 лет". Tut.By. 8 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015.  (Russian)
  26. ^ "Впервые за долгое время премия вручается автору в жанре нон-фикшн". Kommersant. 8 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015.  (Russian) Quote: "Но она известно гораздо больше за пределами Белоруссии, чем в Белоруссии. Она уважаемый европейский писатель".
  27. ^ Svetlana Alexievich wins Nobel Literature prize, by BBC
  28. ^ 1992: Auszug
  29. ^ Eine Stimme der Sprachlosen., 20. Juni 2013, abgerufen am 20. Juni 2013
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i Сергей Чупринин: Русская литература сегодня: Зарубежье. М.: Время, 2008 г. ISBN 978-5-9691-0292-7
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b c "Svetlana Alexievich". internationales literaturfestival berlin. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  33. ^ a b "Svetlana Alexievich: Voices from Big Utopia". Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  34. ^ "Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels 2013" (in German). Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  35. ^ "Fatou Jaw Manneh Amongst Four Writers Honoured By Oxfam Novib/PEN". FOROYAA Newspaper. 20 February 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  36. ^ msh/ipj (dpa, KNA) (20 June 2013). "Svetlana Alexievich of Belarus wins German literary prize". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  37. ^ "Marie Darrieussecq reçoit le prix Médicis pour "Il faut beaucoup aimer les hommes"". Le Monde (in French). 12 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  38. ^ Armitstead, Claire; Flood, Alison; Bausells, Marta (8 October 2015). "Nobel prize in literature: Svetlana Alexievich wins 'for her polyphonic writings' – live". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 

External links[edit]



Articles about Svetlana Alexievich[edit]