Svetlana Alexievich was born in the Ukraine and studied journalism at the University of Minsk. Her books, including Voices from Chernobyl, document the emotional history Soviet and post-Soviet life through interviews. Alexievich has received numerous awards for her writing, including a prize from the Swedish PEN Institute for courage and dignity as a writer. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2015 for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.
Translator Keith Gessen was born in Russia and educated at Harvard. He is a founding editor of n+1 and has written about literature and culture for Dissent, The Nation, The New Yorker, and The New York Review of Books. He is the author of the novel A Terrible Country and a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
A chorus of fatalism, stoic bravery, and black, black humor is
sounded in this haunting oral history . . . The result is an
endelible X-ray of the Russian soul. -Publishers Weekly
Grim and grotesque, the stories accrete across the pages like the radionuclides lodged in the bodies of those who survived. -Nicholas Confessore The New York Times Book Review
It was the stories of those who suffered that most interested Alexievich. The [HBO] series actually makes use of one of the stories in her book: the story of Lyudmilla Ignatenko (Jessie Buckley), who broke the rules by staying with her firefighter husband in the hospital until he died, even though she was pregnant. (She lied about it.) Her baby lived for four hours after birth; she had apparently absorbed the radiation, saving her mother's life. Ignatenko's monologue in Alexievich's book is some of the most memorable reading I have ever done. -Masha Gessen, The New Yorker
Shocking accounts of life in a poisoned world. And what quintessentially human stories these are, as each distinct voice expresses anger, fear, ignorance, stoicism, valor, compassion, and love. Alexievich put her own health at risk to gather these invaluable frontline testimonies, which she has transmuted into a haunting and essential work of literature that one can only hope documents a never-to-be-repeated catastrophe. -Booklist (Starred Review)
Svetlana Alexievich's remarkable book, recording the lives and deaths of her fellow Belarussians, has at last made it into American bookstores. (...) Hers is a peerless collection of testimony. -Andrew Meier, The Nation
"Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl (Dalkey Archive) is a collage of oral testimony that turns into the psycho-biography of a nation not shown on any map: the poisoned territory where live Belarusians, Ukrainians and Russians who are forever changed by the catastrophe. The book, by this year's Nobelist - leaves radiation burns on the brain." -Julian Barnes, The Guardian, Best Books of the Year