The Slavic and East European Studies collection of the Indiana University Libraries is pleased to present an online exhibit about Svetlana Aleksievich, the Nobel laureate in literature for 2015. On the winners’ roster of this prestigious international award that stretches back to 1901, Aleksievich is the 14th “Slavic and East European” writer since Henryk Sienkiewicz won it for the first time in 1905. Hungarian writer Imre Kertesz (1929- ), who won the award in 2002, preceded Svetlana Aleksievich as a Nobel laureate in literature from a Slavic and East European country.

The introduction to her homepage — which lays the basis for this exhibit–provides a useful snapshot of her literature. There she talks about what her stories are about, how she writes them, and what she wants to achieve through those stories.

Svetlana Aleksievich wrote much about wars. Her first book was about Soviet women in WWII; second about children in it; third about the Afghan war. She wrote her fourth book about the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl’. She says she wrote so much about wars because “We did not have any other history. All our history – military. We either waged war or prepared for war.” The Nobel prize announcement resonates quite well with her own assessment of her literature: “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”

S. A. with Artists from the Omsk Theatre (center)
Kabul, Afghanistan 1988

Selected Works of Svetlana Aleksievich

“This book is a confession, a document and a record of people’s memory. More than 200 women speak in it, describing how young girls, who dreamed of becoming brides, became soldiers in 1941. More than 500,000 Soviet women participated on a par with men in the Second World War, the most terrible war of the 20th century. Women not only rescued and bandaged the wounded but also fired a sniper’s rifle, blew up bridges, went reconnoitering and killed… They killed the enemy who, with unprecedented cruelty, had attacked their land, their homes and their children.” (more)

“From 1979 to 1989 a million Soviet troops engaged in a devastating war in Afghanistan that claimed 50,000 casualties―and the youth and humanity of many tens of thousands more. Creating controversy and outrage when it was first published in the USSR―it was called by reviewers there a “slanderous piece of fantasy” and part of a “hysterical chorus of malign attacks”―Zinky Boys presents the candid and affecting testimony of the officers and grunts, nurses and prostitutes, mothers, sons, and daughters who describe the war and its lasting effects.” (more)

“On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of Europe. Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal accounts of the tragedy. Journalist Svetlana Aleksievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the meltdown—from innocent citizens to firefighters to those called in to clean up the disaster—and their stories reveal the fear, anger, and uncertainty with which they still live.” (more)

“Завершающая, пятая книга знаменитого художественно-документального цикла «Голоса Утопии» Светланы Алексиевич, лауреата Нобелевской премии по литературе 2015 года «за многоголосное творчество — памятник страданию и мужеству в наше время». «У коммунизма был безумный план, — рассказывает автор, — переделать “старого” человека, ветхого Адама. И это получилось… Может быть, единственное, что получилось. За семьдесят с лишним лет в лаборатории марксизма-ленинизма вывели отдельный человеческий тип — homo soveticus.” (more)

How has the World Responded to Svetlana Aleksievich’s Nobel Prize?

Светлана Алексиевич: “Чтобы сохранить себя, нужно мужества”

– Известия

“Нобель” заговорил по-русский


Svetlana Alexievich’s Nobel Win Sends A Stern Message To Putin.

-The Telegraph

“Я верю: боль – МОСТЬ МЕЖДУ ЛЮДМИ”

-Новая Газета

Светлана Алексевич: сегодня очень трудно быть честным человеком


Светлана Алексевич знает, как и над кем нужно плакать


Svetlana Aleksievich’s award has evoked many different reactions by the media. The following are a few samples of media headlines, mostly from Western and Russian media.

Why the New Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich is the Voice of Modern Russia

-Huffington Post

Нобелеская премия Светлане Алексиевич – за литературу или за политику?

-Комсомольская Правда

Svetlana Alexievich, Belarussian voice of survivors, wins Nobel Prize in Literature

-New York Times

Svetlana Alexievich, the Dostoevsky of Nonfiction

-New Republic

Why reporter Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in literature: She’s a teller of secrets

-Los Angeles Times

Svetlana Alexievich: The Truth in Many Voices

-Timothy Snyder via The New York Review of Books

Svetlana Aleksievich’s works have been translated into many languages. Her final work, Время секонд хэнд, is, however, yet to be translated into English. Overall, the writer has 156 publications worldwide listed on her website.

A GIS: Translations of Svetlana Aleksievich