Happy news! A non-fiction writer – a Belarusian woman – has won this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. Hooray to Svetlana Alexievich!
She interviews her fellow citizens and makes sure their story is heard. She says, “It never ceases to amaze me how interesting ordinary, everyday life is. There are an endless number of human truths … History is only interested in facts; emotions are excluded from its realm of interest. It’s considered improper to admit them into history. I look at the world as a writer, not strictly an historian. I am fascinated by people.”
And someone says about her work, “I hope that in reading her, more people see the ways that suffering – even suffering brought on by geopolitical circumstances foreign to many readers – is also something that can bring people closer to one another if they are willing to take a risk and listen.”
This is what I teach, what I believe so strongly, how thrilling to read it in the Guardian in connection with a Nobel Prize! People bursting with vital stories sit in my class and say, Who’d want to listen to me? I’m not interesting or famous.
And I reply, If you tell the stories that matter most to you, if you tell them with depth and honesty and passion and learn the craft to tell them well, they will matter deeply to us too. Because they’ll be about the things we all share.”
It’s hot and sunny again, and I spent this glorious morning working on my own little bit of truth-telling, full of doubt about its worth, its structure and voice and scope. But Svetlana has brought me back. My paid work is to listen to others and help them tell their stories. My own work is to listen to myself and tell mine.
A fall bouquet for Svetlana: