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Nobel Prize winner a profoundly courageous, free voice, Slavic literature professor says

Thursday, October 08, 2015

LAWRENCE – Belarusian journalist and writer Svetlana Alexievich, who writes about the Soviet Union and its collapse, won the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday. A professor at the University of Kansas can speak about Alexievich’s background, literary career and thematic focus.

Vitaly Chernetsky, associate professor of Slavic languages and literatures and acting director of KU’s Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies, said as a writer of nonfiction, Alexievich is a somewhat unusual choice for the Nobel Prize. Her first book was about women’s experiences during World War II; another major book focused on Soviet soldiers sent to fight in Afghanistan, and another is on the Chernobyl nuclear accident and its consequences.

“Her major books, from the 1980s onward, focus on collecting individual testimonies and forming a large narrative out of them. What she practices is oral history transformed into creative nonfiction,” Chernetsky said.

Alexievich, who was born in Ukraine, lives in Belarus and writes in Russian, connects to three national traditions, Chernetsky said.

“She is a profoundly courageous and free voice, thus by selecting her the Nobel Prize committee also affirms the commitment to personal freedoms, including freedom of speech,” Chernetsky said.

A native of Ukraine, Chernetsky teaches 20th and 21st century Russian literature and culture and Ukrainian literature and culture. He is the author of the book “Mapping Postcommunist Cultures: Russia and Ukraine in the Context of Globalization.” He is also the president of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies.

To arrange an interview with Chernetsky, contact Christine Metz Howard at cmetzhoward@ku.edu or 785-864-8852.