Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarusian writer whose oral histories have recorded thousands of individual voices to map the implosion of the Soviet Union, has won the Nobel prize for literature.
The Swedish Academy, announcing her win, praised Alexievich’s “polyphonic writings”, describing them as 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 last woman to win, Canada’s Alice Munro, was handed the award in 2013.
Bela Shayevich, who is currently translating Alexievich into English for Fitzcarraldo, also paid tribute to her skills as an interviewer which leave her work “resounding with nothing but the truth”. “The truth of life in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia is not an easy thing to swallow,” Shayevich said. “I’m thrilled that this win will mean that more readers will be exposed to the metaphysical dimensions of her subjects’ survival and despair through the tragedies of Soviet history. I hope that in reading her, more people see the ways that suffering – even suffering brought on by geopolitical circumstances foreign to many readers – is also something that can bring people closer to one another if they are willing to take a risk and listen.”