Writer Who Captured Chernobyl Disaster Wins Nobel

Svetlana Alexievich is known for journalistic style, eyewitness accounts
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2015 6:54 AM CDT
Updated Oct 8, 2015 6:57 AM CDT
Belarus Writer Wins Nobel for Literature
In this 2014 photo, Belarus writer Svetlana Alexievich speaks in Minsk, Belarus.   (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

A Belarus writer known for what Swedish Academy judges called "her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time," won the Nobel Prize for Literature Thursday, the Guardian reports. Svetlana Alexievich, 67, has made her name by instilling a journalistic style heavy on eyewitness accounts into literature that focuses on the "great tragedies of the Soviet Union and its collapse," including Chernobyl and the Soviet war in Afghanistan, per the AP, as well as her own website. Her first novel, War's Unwomanly Face, which documented the untold stories of multitudes of women who fought against the Nazis, was published in 1985 and sold more than 2 million copies. Also under Alexievich's belt: three plays and the screenplays for nearly two dozen documentaries.

Alexievich, born in 1948 to a Belarus father and Ukrainian mother in the Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankivsk, is the 14th woman to win a Nobel Prize for Literature, per the Guardian; Alice Munro was the last female to nab the honors in 2013. Alexievich explains her approach to writing on her site, noting that she'd been "searching for a genre that would be most adequate to my vision of the world to convey how my ear hears and my eyes see life. … Finally I chose a genre where human voices speak for themselves." One of her books, Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, involved hundreds of interviews with people affected by the 1986 nuclear meltdown, NPR notes. "I usually spend three to four years writing a book, but this time it took me more than 10 years," Alexievich told the Dalkey Archive Press. The Nobels continue Friday with the Peace Prize. (Read more Nobel Prize stories.)

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