Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich among contenders for top UK nonfiction award

Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich among contenders for top UK nonfiction award
(Image: Elke Wetzig under a CC licence)

22 September 2016

Belarusian writer and Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich has been longlisted for the UK’s top nonfiction award — the £30,000 Baillie Gifford prize.

Alexievich’s latest title Second-Hand Time, for which she has been listed for the prize, brings together a diverse range of voices of witnesses to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“I don’t ask people about socialism, I ask about love, jealousy, childhood, old age. Music, dances, hairstyles. The myriad sundry details of a vanished way of life. This is the only way to chase the catastrophe into the framework of the mundane and attempt to tell a story. Try to figure things out,” Alexievich writes, in Bela Shayevich’s English translation of the book.

Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, becoming the first journalist to win the award. She was awarded the 8 million Swedish kronor (approx. US$972,000) prize by the Swedish Academy “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”.

Known for her writing on major events during the era of the Soviet Union and its aftermath, Alexievich’s best known works in English translation include Voices From Chernobyl, an oral history of the nuclear disaster and Zinky Boys, a collection of first-hand accounts from the Soviet-Afghan war.

Other titles in the longlist for the Baillie Gifford prize for nonfiction include memoir The Return by Libyan novelist Hisham Matar, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s history of genetics The Gene and American author Margo Jefferson’s autobiographical Negroland. The full longlist can be viewed here.

Formerly known as the Samuel Johnson prize, the Baillie Gifford prize is open to books published in English by writers of any nationality.

Source: The Guardian