Saturday, October 26, 2019

Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich was born in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, in 1948 and has spent most of her life in the Soviet Union and present-day Belarus, with prolonged periods of exile in Western Europe. Starting out as a journalist, she developed her own nonfiction genre, which gathers a chorus of voices to describe a specific historical moment. Her works include The Unwomanly Face of War (1985), Last Witnesses (1985), Zinky Boys (1990), Voices from Chernobyl (1997), and Secondhand Time (2013). She has won many international awards, including the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”

From her interview with Luke Harding for the Guardian:

Which book or author do you always return to?

Dostoevsky. His Crime and Punishment and Demons. He goes deep into human beings, the way he sees the darkness inside the soul and illuminates it. My favourite literary hero is Dostoevsky himself. He’s both hero and antihero. It’s an awful thing that Russian writers don’t generally live much beyond 50, with the obvious exception of Tolstoy. Chekhov was dead by 44.

What book would you give to a young person?

Marina Tsvetaeva’s diaries and notebooks. She manages to catch what she feels, to write words that have already been purified, to record what we whisper to ourselves before we wake up and this vanishes. She deals in what I call alive words.

How do you feel about our troubled political era?

People have gone back to the middle ages, to medieval prejudices. Those who come from the USSR or Russia and move to the west take their prejudices with them. They are a deeply conservative bunch. If you switch on Russian TV it says that Europeans are decadent, that everyone in the west is gay....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue