Svetlana Alexievich

Last Witnesses
  • Last Witnesses

  • Svetlana Alexievich

    Stunning stories about what it was like to be a Soviet child during the upheaval and horror of the Second World War, from Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich

    I finished first grade in May of 41, and my parents took me for the summer to the Pioneer camp. I came there, went for a swim once, and two days later the war began. German planes flew over, and we shouted "Hurray!" We didn't understand that they could be enemy planes. Until they began to bomb us... Then all colours disappeared. All shades.

    What did it mean to grow up in the Soviet Union during the Second World War? In the late 1970s, Svetlana Alexievich started interviewing people who had experienced war as children, the generation that survived and had to live with the trauma that would forever change the course of the Russian nation. With remarkable care and empathy, Alexievich gives voice to those whose stories are lost in the official narratives, uncovering a powerful, hidden history of one of the most important events of the twentieth century.

    Published to great acclaim in the USSR in 1985 and now available in English for the first time, this masterpiece offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of the human consequences of the war - and an extraordinary chronicle of the Russian soul.

Svetlana Alexievich was born in Ivano-Frankivsk in 1948 and has spent most of her life in the Soviet Union and present-day Belarus, with prolonged periods of exile in Western Europe. Starting out as a journalist, she developed her own, distinctive non-fiction genre which brings together a chorus of voices to describe a specific historical moment. Her works include The Unwomanly Face of War (1985), Last Witnesses (1985), Boys in Zinc (1991), Chernobyl Prayer (1997) and Second-Hand Time (2013). She has won many international awards, including the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature for 'her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time'.