Belarusian writer and journalist Svetlana Alexievich wins the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature for her extensive writings on narrations and recollections of Soviet victims of wars and nuclear radiations.
Many of us might’ve read Voices from Chernobyl with utmost horror and despair back in 2005 when the English version of the book initially hit bookstores around the world. It was one of the most truthful and horrifying accounts of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in 1986 that, unlike other disasters, left more survivors than dead. But the irony was that the survivors were the real victims. Death, in fact, was a blessing in disguise for the tens of thousands of people in Ukraine and millions of people across Europe exposed to catastrophic radiations over many years to come.
“I'm not afraid of God. I'm afraid of man.
At first we asked people: "Where is the radiation?"
"See where you're standing? That's where it is."
So it's everywhere? [Cries] There are many empty houses. People left. They were scared.”
Many of us had that moment of revelation of the impact of man’s actions gone wrong as we flipped through the pages of this firsthand narrative about fear, misery and agony of more than five hundred people from Chernobyl. The author painted a vivid picture of how man was insane soon after the disaster, not knowing how to contain the catastrophe, destroyed buildings and dug deep pits to bury debris and land which were exposed to radiation, shot all animals of the region dead fearing their fur to emit radiation. With nothing to be perceived by any of the sense organs, radiation changed the lives of these people forever. Skin peeling off in layers, hair falling off in bulk, blisters developing all over the body, fetuses dying in utero, hundreds succumbing to multi-organ failure, the nightmarish days were only beginning for them. With congenital malformations, developmental delays and malignancies, they are still paying a huge penalty.
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster is only one of the narratives of disaster victims of former Soviet Union by Svetlana Alexievich. She has written extremely disturbing and chilling accounts from victims and witnesses of Soviet-Afghan war and World War II in Zinky Boys: Soviet voices from a forgotten war and The Unwomanly Face of War. As the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Sara Danius stated in the Press Conference yesterday, “It’s not really about a history of events. It’s a history of emotions.”
Born in Ukraine and brought up in Belarus, Svetlana is an investigative journalist by profession. She writes in Russian, but many of her works of excellence have been translated to English, which made her popular worldwide. As her accounts were eye-openers to the injustice to mankind, she has been at the receiving end of wrath of many governments from time to time, which made her a political refugee in 2000s. She currently resides at Minsk, Belarus.
It was quite interesting to note that journalists from around the world, who usually sit in silence with sober faces during the announcement of Nobel Prizes in Press centers, welcomed yesterday’s announcement with a loud round of applause. Thanks to Svetlana’s stellar literary career, a journalist is being honored by the Prize for the first time in history. Also, the Swedish Academy chose a writer of non-fiction, breaking a tradition of half a century.