READ: Svetlana Alexievich

“Reality has always attracted me like a magnet, it tortured and hypnotized me, I wanted to capture it on paper. So I immediately appropriated this genre of actual human voices and confessions, witness evidences and documents.” – Svetlana Alexievich.


Reading Svetlana Alexievich may be the closest you can get to experiencing the past – it’s history straight from the horse’s mouth. The horse being the people who were there, the people who were effected, the people who lived it. The people across the Soviet Empire who lived through the country’s most severe events. World War II told by Russia’s female soldiers (The Unwomanly Face of War). The Chernobyl disaster (Chernobyl Prayer). The Soviet – Afghan war (Boys in Zinc). The experiences of Russian children during World War II (Last Witnesses).

She transcribed interviews with such literary finesse you can’t believe you’re reading interviews. And you’re not really, they are more like historic monologues, each one a part of a puzzle that had never been put together before. A puzzle of pieces that are latent when separate but materialized when together. Stories from mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, the people we know, the people we are. Alexievich’s writing has revealed and preserved a different type of history. A personal one. One that documents 70 years of life in the Soviet Union. An elusive side of history, partly because much of it wasn’t meant to be told. Many of her books took years to be published and are still banned in Russia and Belarus. Politically persecuted in her native Belarus she had spent years living in exile for sharing stories that were meant to die with the people they belong to. But they didn’t and they won’t. The Nobel prize for Literature she received in 2015 serves almost as a monument. A monument to the past, to the truth and to people and their stories.

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