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Belarusian journalist’s work of oral history leads to Nobel Prize for literature

This year’s Nobel Prize for literature went to a nonfiction writer from Belarus for chronicling the lives and times of people in the Soviet Union and the nations that succeeded it in works that combine journalism and oral history.

The works of Svetlana Alexievich include Voices from Chernobyl, based on interviews with people in Ukraine who survived the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster. In addition to nonfiction books, Alexievich also has written documentaries and screenplays.

Only two other nonfiction writers, Winston Churchill and Bertrand Russell, have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and she is the first journalist to be so honored.

Officials of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prizes, praised Alexievich for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time” and credited her with developing “a new literary genre.”