Once again the Nobel Prize for Literature has gone to someone you most likely hadn't heard of. Once again Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates and Haruki Murakami will have to wait another year. The 2015 literature prize, the fourth of five Nobels awarded annually, has gone to Belarusian journalist and author Svetlana Alexievich.
The Swedish Academy, which hands out the prize, said it was awarding Alexievich for "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time." The Belarusian's work explores the legacy of the Soviety experience, most significantly in Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, where she took ten years to interview the people touched by the 1986 catastrophe.
Though Alexievich was among those with the shortest odds to win the prize (alongside the more regular presences of Roth, Murakami and Oates), she still comes as a surprise for multiple reasons. Alexievich is only the 14th woman to win the Literature Nobel, she's a rare non-fiction writer to pick up the prize and, according to National Public Radio, the first journalist to ever win the award. She's also the first from Belarus.
Alexievich will pick up around $960,000 in prize money and will most likely see an immediate interest in her critical, journalistic work, which has occasionally forced her to live outside of her home nation of Belarus. .The Guardian reports on Alexievich developing her authorial voice under the guidance of Belorusian writer Ales Adamovich who helped create a genre that he himself called "collective novel” and an “epic chorus."
The literature prize announcement comes a day before the Norwegian Nobel Committee tells us who wins this year's peace prize, usually the award with the most fanfare (and criticism) attached to it.