2015 Nobel Prize in Literature

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The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2015 is awarded to Svetlana Alexievich (Belarus) “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”

She becomes the 14th woman to win the prize since it was first awarded in 1901. The last woman to win, Canada’s Alice Munro, was handed the award in 2013.

Alexievich was born on the 31 May 1948 in the Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankovsk into a family of a serviceman. Her father is Belarusian and her mother is Ukrainian. After her father’s demobilisation from the army the family returned to his native Belorussia and settled in a village where both parents worked as schoolteachers. She left school to work as a reporter on the local paper in the town of Narovl.

She has written short stories, essays and reportage but says she found her voice under the influence of the Belorusian writer Ales Adamovich, who developed a genre which he variously called the “collective novel”, “novel-oratorio”, “novel-evidence”, “people talking about themselves” and the “epic chorus”.

Read: Noble Prize in Chemistry

The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded annually by the Swedish Academy to authors for outstanding contributions in the field of literature. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the 1895 will of Alfred Nobel, which are awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine.

Books Written by Svetlana Alexievich

The Unwomanly Face of War, (extracts from Always a Woman: Stories by Soviet Women Writers) 1987

War’s Unwomanly Face, 1988

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, 2005

Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War, 1992

Awards Received by Alexievich:

  • 1996 Tucholsky-Preis (Swedish PEN)
  • 1997 Andrei Sinyavsky Prize
  • 1998 Leipziger Book Prize on European Understanding
  • 1998 Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung-Preis
  • 1999 Herder Prize
  • 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award, Voices from Chernobyl
  • 2007 Oxfam Novib/PEN Award
  • 2011 Ryszard Kapuściński Award for literary reportage (Polish)
  • 2013 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
  • 2013 Prix Médicis essai, La Fin de l’homme rouge ou le temps du désenchantement
  • 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature

Youngest Literature Laureate

To date, the youngest Literature Laureate is Rudyard Kipling, best known for The Jungle Book, who was 42 years old when he was awarded the Literature Prize in 1907.
Doris Lessing

Oldest Literature Laureate

The oldest Nobel Laureate in Literature to date is Doris Lessing, who was 88 years old when she was awarded the Prize in 2007.

Two People have Declined the Nobel Prize in Literature

Boris Pasternak, the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature, “Accepted first, later caused by the authorities of his country (Soviet Union) to decline the Prize”.

Jean Paul Sartre, the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature, declined the prize because he had consistently declined all official honours.

Read: Noble Prize in Medicine

Posthumous Nobel Prizes in Literature

In 1931, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded posthumously to Erik Axel Karlfeldt. From 1974, the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation stipulate that a Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously, unless death has occurred after the announcement of the Nobel Prize. Dag Hammarskjöld was also awarded a posthumous prize, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961.

Past Nobel Prizes in Literature

2014: Patrick Modiano (France)

2013: Alice Munro (Canada)

2012: Mo Yan (China)

2011: Tomas Tranströmer (Sweden)

2010: Mario Vargas (Peru) and Llosa (Spain)

2009: Herta Müller (Germany)

2008: Jean-Marie Gustave Le (France) and Clezio (Mauritius)

2007: Doris Lessing (UK)

2006: Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)

2005: Harold Pinter (UK)

2004: Elfriede Jelinek (Austria)

2003: John M. Coetzee (South Africa)

2002: Imre Kertesz (Hungary)

2001: Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (UK)

2000: Gao Xingjian (Chinese)

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