Alexievich, Svetlana Alexandrovna

Alexievich, Svetlana Alexandrovna,

1948–, Belarusian journalist and nonfiction writer, grad. Univ. of Minsk (1972). She was a working journalist before she began writing books in the 1980s. Her first book, and one of her best-known, is War's Unwomanly Face (1985, tr. 1988), which recounts the harrowing experience of World War II in the words of women who lived through the conflict and contradicts official Soviet heroic myths about the war. Like her subsequent books, it reveals hard truths about recent Russian history by using interviews of ordinary citizens, firsthand participants in or observers of events, and combining their voices into a polyphonic chorus of emotion and history. Among her other books are Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War (1991, tr. 1992), the title of which refers to the zinc coffins that bore soldiers killed in the war, Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (1997, tr. 2005), the result of more than 500 interviews, and Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets (2013, tr. 2016), an account of life after the collapse of the USSR, the resulting peculiarly vicious capitalism, and the nostalgia many feel for Soviet times. Alexievich lived in various European cities from 2000 to 2011, when she returned to Belarus. The recipient of many honors, she became in 2015 the first Belarusian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.