© Maria Kabakowa
Svetlana Alexievich was born in Ivano-Frankivsk in the Ukraine in 1948. After studying journalism at the University of Minsk, she worked as a reporter and as a teacher. Her documentary prose has been translated into 28 languages, was, in part, made into films and has inspired at least a dozen of plays. The current state of the once enormous, now crumbling Soviet empire has been the subject of most of her publications. Because of her book The Unwomanly Face of the War (1983) on the fate of the approximately one million women who fought in the Red Army during the Second World War and who were held in contempt after their return from the front, she was indicted and lost her position at the Neman magazine, where she had been working since 1976. Because of her book Zinky Boy (1989), she was accused of “defamation” and “desecration of the soldiers’ honor” and was brought to court several times between 1992 and 1996. The book’s title alludes to the many fallen soldiers who had returned home in zinc coffins from the Soviet-Afghan campaign of 1979 – 1985. The book was taken off the market in Belarus and the play of the same title was banned. Since President Lukashenko’s rise to power in Belarus in 1994, her books are no longer permitted to be published. For her most successful book Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (1997), she won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2006. Svetlana Alexievich participated in the PEN Writers in Exile Program from April 2008 to March 2010. Her books have earned numerous international prizes, for example the 2013 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. She currently lives in Minsk. In 2013, she published her novel Second Hand Time -The End of the Red Man. In 2015, Svetlana Alexievich was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.