Svetlana Alexievich was born in Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine. At present, this writer of international renown, a dedicated critic of the dictatorial regime of her country, is living in Minsk, Belarus. Her books have been translated into 47 languages and published in 52 countries so far, formed the basis for a dozen plays, and more than twenty of her scripts have been filmed as documentaries. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize in Literature 2015, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade 2013, the French Prix Médicis essai 2013; the Best Book of the Year Prize 2013 by the French literary magazine Lire for her book "Time Second Hand"; the Ryszard Kapuściński Award for literary reportage, Poland, 2011; the Angelus Central European Literature Award, Poland, 2011; the National Book Critics Circle nonfiction award for “Voices from Chernobyl”, New York 2006; Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize, Osnabrück, 2001; the Robert Geisendörfer Radio Play Prize, the German Academy of the Performing Arts, Berlin, 2000; the “Témoin du Monde,” Paris, 1999; “The Best Book on Politics of the Year,” Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Bremen, 1998; the Andrej Sinjavskij Prize, Moscow, 1997; the Kurt Tucholsky Prize, Swedish PEN Club, Stockholm, 1996.
Svetlana Alexievich has created a literary non-fiction genre that is entirely her own. She writes “novels of voices.” She has developed this genre book after book, constantly honing the esthetic of her documentary prose, which is based on hundreds of interviews. Her skill at this allows her to intertwine the original voices of her subjects into an artful condensation of a panorama of souls.
“I see the world as voices, as colors, as it were. From book to book, I change, the subjects change, but the narrative thread remains the same. It is the narrative thread of the people I have come to know. … With thousands of voices I can create—you could hardly call it reality, since reality remains unfathomable—an image of my time, of my country. ... It all forms a sort of small encyclopedia, the encyclopedia of my generation, of the people I came to meet. How did they live? What did they believe in? How did they die and how did they kill? And how hard did they pursue happiness, and did they fail to catch it?”
Alexievich’s five great prose volumes represent an impressive history of a people’s mentality – but not only of the Soviet people. Each subsequent book poses still more radically the question, no longer merely about the meaning and meaninglessness of political ideologies, but truly the question for man’s makings.