A very busy personal life and a lot of other personal assignments took me away this year from the fever of the decision process and final announcement of the Nobel prize for literature. In comparison with the Peace prize which is sometimes highly controversial, the highest world award for writing is frequently circumscribed to the writing prodigy instead of the political preferences. Although the political and various circumstantial choices are still there, the value of the literary work usually prevails. Having thus in mind, I usually expect the final decision as a new opportunity to discover new writers and interesting books.
The choice of this year, Svetlana Alexievich, was really interesting. A journalist by background and profession, with a common Ukrainian and Belorussian heritage and influenced by the Russian literature and culture - "a great culture without which I cannot imagine myself" - she is living in Minsk, the capital city of one of the latest dictatorships in the world. She grew up and spent most part of her life in the former Soviet Union, without being a dissident. Following the publication of her book about of the Zinky Boys - the former combatants in Afghanistan - she had to leave Minsk and wandered for around 10 years in Europe - from Paris to Gothenburg and Berlin, but without becoming one of those constant strong voices asking for democracy. However, her books are testimonies of people affected by history, either there is about the former Afghanistan combatants or the victims of Chernobyl catastrophe. "I am a human ear of hundred of voices", that "collect the everyday life of feelings, things and words", she said in her Nobel address as well as in various interviews before and after the announcement of the distinction award. Her works are exclusively books of interviews and journalistic prodigy that I cannot wait to find them in new English translations. But if she is using the traditional Russian methods of interview, combining human observation with sophisticated literary skills, I expect that her works are going beyond the day by day account of the reality. In her public appearances she mentioned being influenced by Ales Adamovich, the author of the 1971 novel Khatyn, another Belorussian intellectual who broke silence on the scale of the Chernobyl disaster, but with a higher profile in support of democracy and writers' freedom.
Alexievich is one of the few non-fiction writers awarded the Nobel: the German historian Theodor Mommsen, the dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Winston Churchill.
As for now, I only documented second hand facts and impressions, driven by the curiosity of finding someone that seems to be interesting. I am waiting to have my own reading experience about for sharing personal impressions. From many points of view, the decision of awarding the Nobel prize to relatively less vocal and famous writers open the door to many interesting intellectual challenges. I wish I am fluent in Russian for starting already to read Alexievich books.Apparently, there are a lot to do to improve my writing life in the next months.