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'Voices From Chernobyl' Author Svetlana Alexievich Wins Lit Nobel (theguardian.com) 48

Lawrence Bottorff writes: The author of Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, Svetlana Alexievich, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It's somewhat surprising, since she is an investigative journalist and not a fiction writer/novelist. And yet her "novels in voices" style, as the Nobel jurists believe, clearly has a literary impact. Here's what a review from the Journal of Nuclear Medicine says about Voices from Chernobyl:

"Alexievich was a journalist living in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the time of the Chernobyl accident. Instead of choosing the usual approach of trying to quantify a disaster in terms of losses and displacement, the author chose instead to interview more than 500 eyewitnesses over a span of 10 years. ... It tells us about the psychologic and personal tragedy of the modern-day nuclear disaster. It is about the experiences of individuals and how the disaster affected their lives."

Although the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded based on "lifetime work" rather than an individual book, Voices... is her best-known and most celebrated work.

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'Voices From Chernobyl' Author Svetlana Alexievich Wins Lit Nobel

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  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday October 08, 2015 @01:22PM (#50687347)
    ...I don't see it wrong to consider the duration of the research effort plus the historical record it leaves (ie, so future generations have a harder time making contrary claims in hindsight) s not being valid criteria for a lifetime body of work. Indeed, after the period of speculative hysteria in the news is over, immediate documentation is the best way to ensure that the legacy and history is realistically preserved. The era of photography began to help this (though is subject to manipulation) but getting the narrative of the participants recorded before they have an opportunity to retroactively change their opinions too much is helpful in honestly understanding what happened.
  • by alphazulu0 ( 3675815 ) on Thursday October 08, 2015 @01:47PM (#50687581)

    > Although the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded based on "lifetime work" rather than an individual book,
    > Voices... is her best-known and most celebrated work.

    According to most of the articles I've read (in the last 15 minutes), her most popular and acclaimed book is War’s Unwomanly Face which is an oral history of Russian woman who fought in WWII. It sold more than 2 million copies.

    az0

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ok, so the real reason she was selected for Nobel despite its rules, is because she's a feminist. What a shock.

      • by pseudofrog ( 570061 ) on Thursday October 08, 2015 @04:52PM (#50689103)
        Oh for fuck's sake.

        Can a woman not write a book about women without the "anti-SJW" crowd whining at length? You haven't even read the damn thing, yet here you are crying about it. What the fuck is so "feminist" (boo! hiss!) about a work documenting women who fought in a war? It's history, and the type of history anyone interested in the subject likely appreciates. She's a 67-year-old Ukrainian, not one of the 14-year-old Tumblr users who you lot think are ruining the world.

        You're becoming the assholes who leave comments on non-political articles whining about "Obummer." Christ.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        She has won the Nobel price because she risked her freedom to write journalist investigation with a high quality in literature. She didn't only make yet another propaganda documentary about Chernobyl, but she actually tried to describe the life of regular people in late USSR/Comobol countries and there after.

        She writes about how it was to life in those Communist countries, and about the failure to reform to an open democratic society. She is from the last remaining dictatorship in Europe, Minsk, and her boo

  • Why, oh, why.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Thursday October 08, 2015 @01:56PM (#50687659)
    I've actually read the "Voices of Chernobyl" long time ago. It's over-emotional crap with very little actual facts and some outright lies: Alexievich's husband was treated in the Moscow radiological military hospital by qualified staff (not by some fearful nurses), being a bone marrow donor does not lead to a disability and it's certainly not performed in the same operating room on a table next to the bone marrow recipient (yet her memoirs graphically describe it).

    Shame on the Nobel committee.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Escogido ( 884359 )

      Little surprise here, since Nobel prize has long since turned into yet another political propaganda tool. So awards are granted based not on artistic merit, but rather on whether their story aligns well with political agenda of (political powers behind) the committee. Hence, the message they're sending out is like "Hey, want to be noted? Do something that we are going to like very much."

      • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

        > Little surprise here, since Nobel prize has long since turned into yet another political propaganda tool.

        This.

        Awarding Obama the prize simply for being elected by other people exemplified this.

        • Hey, Gore had already won the Nobel Prize for Not Being George Bush, so there was some precedence there, though one could at least make a reasoned argument for Gore winning. Of course after giving it to people like Kissinger and Arafat it's not as though it had all that much credibility anyways.
        • These are completely different awards given by committees from different fields belonging to different academies which come from different countries altogether. The only commonality is with the name and the original foundation money.

          Also, this is a prize for literature, not a prize for journalism. Literature is mostly fiction. Similarly, the Peace prize often involved politics, and politics is mostly fiction. So where's the surprise?

          • by Tuidjy ( 321055 )

            Also, this is a prize for literature, not a prize for journalism. Literature is mostly fiction.
            It's even less damning than this. What the original poster remembers is the account of an interviewee, not something told in the author's voice.

            Color me surprised than a woman who lost her husband over two weeks filled with agony may have a rather muddled recollection of the details.

            So we have a maybe-not-so-reliable narrator and an award for fiction. Clearly a smoking gun!

    • by mjm1231 ( 751545 )

      So....Your criticism of an award usually given for fiction is that the work it was awarded to couldn't possibly be true?

    • by RDW ( 41497 ) on Thursday October 08, 2015 @04:26PM (#50688821)

      I've actually read the "Voices of Chernobyl" long time ago. It's over-emotional crap with very little actual facts and some outright lies: Alexievich's husband was treated in the Moscow radiological military hospital by qualified staff (not by some fearful nurses), being a bone marrow donor does not lead to a disability and it's certainly not performed in the same operating room on a table next to the bone marrow recipient (yet her memoirs graphically describe it).

      Either you didn't read it very carefully, or you haven't remembered it very well. It's not 'her memoirs', but an oral history compiled from interviews. The bone marrow recipient was a fireman at Chernobyl, Vasily Ignatenko, the husband of one of the interviewees, Lyudmilla Ignatenko, and the story is told in her own words - see the prologue to a long extract from the book:

      http://www.alexievich.info/kni... [alexievich.info]

      Since Mrs Ignatenko's husband died after 2 weeks of horrible suffering, it seems bizarre (and incredibly callous) to label her experiences as 'over-emotional crap' unless you have some sort of agenda here. It is clear from the extract that Ignatenko was treated in a specialist radiological hospital (you seem to be implying it isn't) and we can hardly blame Mrs Ignatenko for perhaps attributing her sister-in-law's subsequent ill health to the transplant.

      I would suggest Slashdot readers form their own judgements about this book.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Cyberax ( 705495 )

        Either you didn't read it very carefully, or you haven't remembered it very well. It's not 'her memoirs', but an oral history compiled from interviews.

        That's not an excuse for bald-faced lies. And I remembered it just fine - I just was too lazy to translate it into English and post it here. But since you've posted a link to an English translation, I'm posting the offending passage here:

        When he found out they'd be taking the bone marrow from his little sister, he flat-out refused. "I'd rather die. She's so small. Don't touch her." His older sister Lyuda was twenty-eight, she was a nurse herself, she knew what she was getting into. "As long as he lives," she said. I watched the operation. They were lying next to each other on the tables. There was a big window onto the operating room. It took two hours. When they were done, Lyuda was worse off than he was, she had eighteen punctures in her chest, it was very difficult for her to come out from under the anesthesia. Now she's sick, she's an invalid. She was a strong, pretty girl. She never got married.

        That's just bullshit. I was a bone marrow donor myself and it certainly was nothing close to this BS.

        I've actually worked at Chernobyl and there many, many interesting local stories. But Alexievich's memoirs are just bullshit.

        • Even if bald face lies they are the oral report from someone who was there. That's what happens when you interview someone, you get a mixture of truth and lies and misremembered events. If you're going to accuse someone of being a liar, don't accuse the interviewer.

          • Re:Why, oh, why.... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Thursday October 08, 2015 @05:59PM (#50689637)
            And that makes her books nothing more than an over-emotional bullcrap. They are not documentaries since no fact-checking was done and they are not pure fiction ("oral stoties"). They are just... crap for over-excitable individuals. All her artistic input was to choose the most emotional stories (and damn their accuracy).

            Do you notice how her books lack stories like this:

            My family lived 25 kilometers from Chernobyl in a small village, my husband worked on a small furniture factory and I worked as a teacher. Several days after the explosion, soldiers came to us and told that we'll have to relocate soon. We were allowed to take only small personal items and all of them were inspected.

            We were offered a new apartment in Ryazan' and received several thousand rubles, enough to buy new furniture. We also got cards to buy imported Bulgarian child food for our 6-months old son. Even after the USSR collapse we received free medical checkups every year and our son got free admission into a top Russian university. He's working as a nuclear engineer in Bryanks now.

            A true story, I worked with their son. But of course, this story is not sufficiently full of bullcrap to win a Nobel.

        • by RDW ( 41497 ) on Thursday October 08, 2015 @05:45PM (#50689513)

          And I remembered it just fine - I just was too lazy to translate it into English and post it here.

          So why did you attribute the incident to Alexievich herself ('Alexievich's husband was treated...') and not to one of her interviewees? That's such a fundamental misreading of the text that I can't take your judgement of it seriously. This is not a godlike Authorial Voice, it's what the interviewee remembers, whether accuately or not, about the most horrific experience of her life, yet you dismiss it as 'BS'. I have no idea what the exact medical procedures were in an emergency situation in a Soviet hospital in 1986, but I don't find it incredible that the donor would be given a general anaesthetic and might not react well to it. Her later poor health may be nothing to do with the procedure - the interviewee does not state this as fact (though it's implied), and she's presumably not a medical expert. Whether the other details of the procedure are completely accurate is hardly the issue - extreme trauma is not exactly conducive to precise recall. Or do you for some reason doubt that Ignatenko died of his exposure to radiation, or that an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant did not save his life, or that this was an extremely distressing emotional experience for his wife?

          • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
            See here: http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org] I'm sorry for my own incorrect memory of the things - I did read this book several years ago.
            • by cycoj ( 1010923 )
              I hope you realise the irony of accusing someone who recounts memories of "bold face lies", while actually not getting your facts right. Then when someone points it out, you excuse it with an incorrect memory.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I knew this would be the reaction to this article. It's got the two things that trigger certain posters: nuclear and women.

        The nuclear fans hate everything that suggests that the disasters were worse than their preferred statistics suggest. The misogynists need no explanation. Here we have a book about how terrible a nuclear accident was, written by a woman.

  • by Trachman ( 3499895 ) on Thursday October 08, 2015 @02:34PM (#50687943) Journal

    Nobel Prize is sometimes given to stir up some local politics. While, I am sure, the writer is a talented intellectual, many times Noble Prize committee is choosing candidates to rattle the cages for the authoritarians and totalitarians in the recipients' original countries. Do not seek absolute and indisputable merits when researching the contributions of Nobel Prize winners.

    It is a political tool.

    It is also an investment to the weak and unorganized opposition to the moderate European dictator of Republic of Belaruss Mr. Lukashenko.

    Writer Alexievich is know for the critics of the current regime in Belarus. Wise gentlemen decided to invest into visibility of the future leaders and intelectuals early...

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Stonent1 ( 594886 )
      As we have seen with pre-issuing Obama with the peace price when he continues the wars he vowed to eliminate, and continues to allow drone strikes and has even targeted US citizens without trial on foreign soil, the Nobel Prize system has become not much more than a political award.
  • When will Steven King get his nobel prize in literature? The guy has been producing some of the best fiction ever and wasn't found dead in his Main home this morning. I'm sure everybody in the slashdot community misses his Nobel prize. Maybe it's because he was truly an American icon?
    • He never will. In most of his work, the characters do not or hardly experience any evolution; moreover, much of his work builds upon the same small set of ever-repeated patterns. His work is indeed "fiction", but far away from being "literature".
  • 'Voices From Chernobyl' Author Svetlana Alexievich Wins Lit Nobel

    I didn't even know they were flammable.

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