You've probably heard by now that on Thursday, Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, sparking the usual flood of confusion and congratulations. With no shortlist released and no major limitations on who can win (other than he or she has to be alive), the Nobel is notoriously hard to predict, but this year the oddsmakers actually got it right, listing Alexievich as the favorite. However, Alexievich's win is surprising for another reason: she's known primarily for her reporting, and it's been more than 50 years since a nonfiction writer won the Nobel.
Although not widely read in the U.S. (many of her books are untranslated or out of print), Alexievich is well known among journalists for her chronicling of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and her book Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disasterwon the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award. Like many Nobel winners, she is considered a dissident by her home country and has often lived abroad.
Alexievich is by all accounts a remarkable writer — Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, described her work as “a history of emotions — a history of the soul, if you wish” — and both writers and journalists are thrilled about her win.