Hey, people, great news. Svetlana Alexievich, a writer from Belarus, was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Alexievich writes testimonial literature. This is a genre that has been flourishing in countries which have experienced totalitarianism. Argentina, Spain, Uruguay, for instance, have a very robust testimonial genre. (And that’s what I spoke about at my Oxford conference, by the way.)
The Russian-speaking post-Soviet nations have chosen to pretend that their traumatic past never happened. This was an enormous mistake which is now causing all of the insanity that is taking place in these countries. There is no literature to speak of in these nations outside of boring commercial garbage.
Alexievich is pretty much the only writer who stands out in that entire enormous space. She is hugely respected for her powerful writing, political dissidence, and her capacity to create literature in a veritable desert of literary achievement. Things are so bad, literature-wise, in the region that if one wanted to give an award to a writer from Russia or Ukraine, one simply wouldn’t be able to find one.
After an incomprehensible decision to give the Nobel to an author whom nobody on the planet seems to know or care about, the Nobel committee finally made a good choice. Alexievich does extremely important work in a region that needs it like none other.