3 Svetlana Alexievich Books To Start Reading Now That Illustrate How Deserved Her Nobel Prize Really Is

So you’ve seen by now that Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in literature, and you’re stoked to see the prize awarded to a woman, but you’re now feeling embarrassed about not having actually read any of Alexievich’s work. Don’t worry — I’ve got you covered. These three books will get you up to speed, and leave you in no doubt of quite how deserved this prize is.

Throughout her career as a journalist, Alexievich has written a mass of important narratives about some of the most dramatic events in Belarus, where she grew up. Behind the scenes of every tragedy and historic moment, she talked to the humans involved, and it's the expert way she captures and immortalizes these voices that makes her work so powerful. Alexievich herself says she aims to let “human voices speak for themselves” and in doing so, in the words of Sara Danius who announced the prize, Alexievich has “widened” the concept of literature, and “devised a new kind of literary genre.”

Pretty compelling stuff, right? Alexievich’s work has been so influential that she even had to leave Belarus because of the negative reception to her criticism of its regime. We’re talking seriously important work, here — and so it’s fantastic to see her rewarded with the literature Nobel Prize. So there’s just one question left: which Svetlana Alexievich books to read first?

War’s Unwomanly Face

Alexievich’s debut gives a voice to the thousands of Soviet women who participated in the Second World War alongside the men, from nursing the injured to killing the enemy themselves. Alexievich visited over 100 towns to record these women’s stories, and uses their heart-wrenching personal accounts to form a damning denouncement of fascism.

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Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

“Zinky boys” was the name given to the dead bodies shipped back in zinc coffins, so that should clue you into how terribly sad this book is. To write this, Alexievich spoke to the traumatized and angry veterans of the Afghan war, allowing them to speak in their own words of the conflict that ripped them from their daily lives and returned them scarred and frightened, if at all.

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Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster

Voices from Chernobyl was the first book ever to present personal accounts of the Chernobyl tragedy. Alexievich heard stories of helplessness from citizens, heroism from firefighters and servicemen, and grief from those left behind — and captured them all in this devastatingly honest book. After reading this, you'll want to award Alexievich the literature Nobel Prize all over again.

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