Alexievich (born 1948) grew up in the Belarussian countryside where her parents worked as village teachers. She graduated from the Journalism department of Minsk University and worked on various papers while trying her hand at writing short stories. She has five books and three plays to her credit. Her books have been dramatized and staged in France, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria. Twenty-one documentary films have been based on her screenplays.
Her nationwide success began with The War's Unwomanly Face closely followed by Last Witnesses which also brought official accusations of "pacifism and an unheroic portrayal of the Soviet woman" and subsequent persecution. Fortunately Perestroika came and with it freedom of speech: Alexievich's books, eminently in tune with the new times, began to be published in large editions, reaching two million copies.
In 1989, Boys in Zink, banned for publication for ten years, blew up the myth of the Soviet-Afghan war. The book was attacked by the military and Communists alike, and in 1992, Alexievich was subjected to a political court suit. The democratically minded intellectuals of Russia and Belarus, as well as some human rights organizations abroad rose in her defense and stopped the court case.
In 1993, she published her Enchanted with Death, about those who committed suicide unable to bear the crash of their socialist illusions and saw no place for themselves in the new reality.
1997 saw the publication of her striking requiem for the victims of Chernobyl - The Chernobyl Prayer - about the world after the nuclear disaster, about people who have experienced as it were life after the third world war. Pertinently, the book is subtitled "Chronicle of the Future".
Svetlana Alexievich will speak in Russian with English and German simultaneous translation.
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