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Svetlana Alexievich Books In Order

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Publication Order of Voices of Utopia Books

The Unwomanly Face of War / War's Unwomanly Face (1983)Description / Buy at Amazon
Zinky Boys (1989)Description / Buy at Amazon
Voices from Chernobyl (1997)Description / Buy at Amazon
Secondhand Time (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon
Last Witnesses (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

In Search of the Free Individual (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon
Chernobyl's Prayer (2025)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Nine of Russia's Foremost Women Writers(2003)Description / Buy at Amazon

Svetlana Alexievich
Svetlana Alexievich was born May 31, 1948 in the west Ukrainian town of Stanislav to a Ukrainian mom and a Belarusian dad. After she graduated from high school she worked as a reporter at several local newspapers. She graduated in 1972 from Belarusian State University, and became a correspondent for Nyoman (the literary magazine) in Minsk.

While working at the Sel’skaja Gazeta, her criticism of the political regimes in the Soviet Union and thereafter Belarus has periodically forced her to live abroad, in places such as Germany, Italy, France, and Sweden.

During her journalism career, she specialized in crafting narratives based on witness testimonies. And in the process, she wrote these artfully constructed oral histories of several dramatic events in Soviet history: the Afghan War, the Second World War, the Chernobyl disaster, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

She has rejected the notion that she is a journalist, and in fact, her chosen genre is occasionally called ‘documentary literature’, an artistic rendering of true events, with just a degree of poetic license.

Svetlana has been searching for a literary method which would allow the closest possible approximation to real life. Reality’s always attracted her like a magnet, hypnotizing and torturing her, and she wanted to capture it down on paper. So she immediately appropriated this genre of real human voices and confessions, witness documents and evidences. This is how she sees and hears the world, as this chorus of individual voices and this collage of everyday details. It’s how her ear and eye functions. In this way all of her emotional and mental potential is realized to the fullest. It is in this way she can be a reporter, writer, psychologist, sociologist, and preacher.

In 2015, she won a Nobel Prize in Literature, and is the first journalist to win the award. In 1984 she received the Order of the Badge of Honour. In 2013, she was awarded the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels and the Prix Medicis. In 2014 she was given the Order of Arts and Letters. In 2018, she received the Belarusian Democratic Republic 100th Jubilee Medal.

“Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War” is a non-fiction book that was released in 1989. From 1979 until 1989 one million Soviet troops engaged in this devastating war in Afghanistan which claimed 50,000 casualties, and the humanity and youth of tens of thousands more.

Creating outrage and controversy when it was first published in the USSR, it was dubbed by reviewers there to be a part of a hysterical chorus of malign attacks and was a slanderous piece of fantasy. This book presents the affecting and candid testimony of the grunts and officers, mothers, daughters, sons, prostitutes and nurses that all describe the war and its lasting effects.

What winds up emerging is this story that is shocking in its brutality and revelatory in its similarities to the American experience in Vietnam. The Soviet dead got shipped back in sealed zinc coffins (thus the term of “Zinky Boys”), as the state denied the very existence of the conflict.

Svetlana brings the truth to us of the Soviet-Afghan War: the beauty of the country and the savage Army bullying, the mutilation and the killing, the shame and ruined lives of returned veterans, and the profusion of Western goods. This book offers a harrowing, unique, and unforgettably powerful insight into the harsher realities of war.

“Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets” is a non-fiction book that was released in 2016. This is a symphonic oral history about the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a new Russia.

The Swedish Academy awarded her the Nobel Prize and cited Svetlana with inventing a new type of literary genre, and described her work as a history of the soul and a history of emotions. Her distinctive documentary style, combining a collage of voices with extended individual monologues, records the stories of ordinary men and women that rarely get the chance to speak, whose own experiences are often lost in the official histories of the nation.

With this book, she chronicles communism’s demise. Everyday Russians recount the previous thirty years, illustrating to us what life was like during the fall of the Soviet Union and what it is like to live in the new Russia left in its wake. Interviews, spanning 1991 until 2012, take us behind the contrived media accounts and propaganda, which give us a panoramic portrait of contemporary Russia and the Russians that still carry their memories of terror, massacres, famine, and oppression, however also pride in their country, hope for the future, and this belief that everybody was fighting and working to bring a utopia about. This is an account of a life in the aftermath of an idea that was so powerful that it used to dominate a third of the entire world.

Here is a magnificent tapestry of the triumphs and sorrows of the human spirit that has been woven by a master. It tells the stories that all together make up the true history of a nation.

This book was named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Financial Times, and Kirkus Reviews. It was the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner.

“Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future” is a non-fiction book that was released in 2023. In April of 1986 this series of explosions shook the entire Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Flames lit up the sky and radiation escaped to contaminate the land and it poisoned the people for years to come.

As officials attempted to hush up the whole accident, Svetlana spent many years collecting together testimonies from survivors: firefighters, clean-up workers, widows and orphans, residents, resettlers. All in an effort to craft their voices into a haunting oral history of anger, fear, and uncertainty, however also love and dark humor.

This is a chronicle of the past and is a warning for our nuclear future, this book shows us what it’s like to bear witness, and to remember in a world that just wants you to forget.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Svetlana Alexievich

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