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Limonov on Alexievich: She Is an Icon for Housewives

This year’s Nobel Prize in literature went to Svetlana Alexievich, a popular Soviet author and a longtime critic of Alexander Lukashenka, Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shoigu. Сomments Komsomolskya Pravda, Russia’s largest circulation national daily newspаper.

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

This article was originally published at KP. Translated by Alyona Fedina.

Commentary in Russian by RI columnist Dmitry Babich here

A Belarusian author best known for her book on the heroism of the Soviet women during the Second World War Svetlana Alexievich has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in literature. The Nobel committee has praised Alexievich ‘for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time’.

Wars and global tragedies are the key themes of the Nobel laureate’s works: she wrote about the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl and the Soviet-Afghan war. 

For the last three years Ms. Alexievich has been the runner-up candidate for the prize. In the interview to KP the writer admitted that till the last second she was not sure whether she was going to win. The Belarusian explained that one could never expect to be brought into line with such outstanding writers as Sholokhov and Brodsky. 

The 67-year-old author is a controversial figure in Russia. On the one hand, Alexievich writes in Russian and, except for the twelve years spent in Europe, has lived her entire life in Ukraine and Belarus. On the other hand, the writer is notorious for her attacks on the Russian government, which she has been criticizing severely on its policies during the 90s, in Ukraine and Crimea. As a result, the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Ms. Alexievich has caused mixed reactions among Russian public figures.  

Eduard Limonov (a well-known Russian writer and political dissident):

'Novel Prize equals to ‘Miss Universe’ in terms of tackiness’

First of all, I don't think much of the Nobel Prize. Secondly, neither do I think much of Svetlana Alexievich. I think she is a third-fourth-class writer. And the Nobel Prize has turned into a social event similar to ‘Miss Universe’ beauty pageant. They are identically tacky. It is just that instead of stylists and fashionists who choose the beauty, here we’ve got a formal Nobel Committee with a king and a queen etc. It’s true that they organize lavish ceremonies with tuxedos. But what does it have to do with literature? Nothing. But neither is it about politics. It had to do with politics in times of Solzhenitsyn, Brodsky, of Ivan Bunin, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1933 so that Maxim Gorky wouldn’t get it. Sholokhov, on the contrary, got it. They couldn’t help but give it. And those were great people! And one should respect such decisions. But these days – who is Sholokhov and Solzhenitsyn and who is Alexievich? She is an icon for housewives.

Sergey Shargunov (a Russian writer and journalist, editor of Svobodnaya Pressa/Free Press):

‘Masterpieces deserve awards, not essays’

Early works by Svetlana Alexievich like ‘War’s Unwomanly Face’ and ‘Zinky Boys’ impressed me once. They were quite powerful. In my opinion, Alexievich is a great essayist. Especially when it comes to the fate of the people during wartime. But you are always on the safe side if you write about a man in the middle of the global tragedy.

Since recently Alexievich’s works has grown more and more publicistic, and very political at that. She is perceived as a clear dissident who opposes the president of Belarus. She considers Russia to be an invader, among other things due to the referendum on the status of Crimea. She is quite good at this dissident rhetoric. That is why I think that she was given the Nobel Prize mainly for political reasons. There are Russian writers who could be awarded the Nobel Prize for real masterpieces, not essays. For instance, Andrei Bitov or Fazil Iskander. Why not Valentin Rasputin? Was he not a great deep true writer, did he not deserve to get the Nobel Prize? To tell the truth, he deserved it. But he was a great patriot of Russia, which is why he couldn’t expect to be included even in the long list of the nominees. And this correlation easily and objectively demonstrates what influences the decisions of the Nobel Committee. On the other hand, I don’t want to nitpick at all, and if people read Alexievich’s books, her early works in particular, it will be good. They are written in Russian, tell us about the fate of the Russian people and also belong to the Russian world. 

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