The 67-year-old Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich won The Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 for her polyphonic writings, “a monument to suffering and courage in our time”. She becomes the 14th woman to win the prize since it was first awarded in 1901.
The chair of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, also praised Alexievich for devising “a new kind of literary genre”, and pointed new readers towards her first book U vojny ne zenskoe lico (War’s Unwomanly Face), based on interviews with hundreds of women who participated in the second world war.
Alexievich was born on the 31 May 1948 in the Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankovsk, then known as Stanislav, to a Belarusian father and Ukrainian mother. After her father’s demobilisation from the army the family returned to his native Belorussia and settled in a village where both parents worked as schoolteachers. Alexievich studied journalism at the University of Minsk between 1967 and 1972. After graduation, she worked as a journalist on the local paper in the town of Narovl for several years before publishing her first book, War’s Unwomanly Face, in 1985.
She has written short stories, essays and reportage but says she found her voice under the influence of the Belorusian writer Ales Adamovich. An extraordinary writer whose books have documented life in the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet era, has been a prominent voice against Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, denouncing Russia’s annexation last year of Crimea as a criminal act and criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin as an imperialist. It’s a history of emotions. Alexievich’s books include “The Chernobyl Prayer,” “The War’s Unwomanly Face,” “Last Witness,” and “Zinky Boys.”
Alexievich led the odds for the 2015 award, ahead of Japan’s Haruki Murakami, Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse. The Award includes a gold medal and 8m kronor (£691,000) cash prize.