This Reporter Won the Nobel Prize for Telling Stories of Survival
Alexievich has written five books, among them Voices from Chernobyl, which won a 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award. O's books editor, Leigh Haber, dug deeper into her mission and process:
Her work: The people I write about have been trampled by historical events—labor camps of the Gulag and World War II, Hitler's fascism on one hand and Stalin's on the other. I assemble their lives bit by bit. Not statistics or official lists of facts, but how men and women loved one another, their children, old people in their lives—stories of human souls.
Raising one's voice: I was brought up on Russian literature, in which a poet is always more than a poet. The poet's a citizen. For me, it was never a question of whether to speak truth to power. Of course you must. Opposition to the authorities is normal for us.
A favorite book: Dostoevsky's The Idiot. I fell in love with Prince Myshkin. It's all there—everything we are thinking about and talking about today, especially the impossibility of distinguishing between good and evil.
What the Nobel means: When it was announced, fellow Belarusians went out into the streets of Minsk to hug and kiss, yet our dictator, President Lukashenko, found no kind words for me. He said I'd poured filth on the country—which Stalin once said of Boris Pasternak and Brezhnev of Joseph Brodsky. All these years later, tyrants haven't changed: They even use the same vocabulary. Still, I'll continue to do my small bit—honestly, and with joy.