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  • Nobel Lecture by Sviatlana Alexievich

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    Sarah Danius, spokesper­son for the Swedish Acad­e­my, intro­duces the Nobel Lec­tur­er



    “I do not stand alone at this podi­um… There are voic­es around me, hun­dreds of voic­es.”


    “Flaubert called him­self a human pen; I would say that I am a human ear. When I walk down the street and catch words, phras­es, and excla­ma­tions, I always think – how many nov­els dis­ap­pear with­out a trace!”


    “We were told that human beings exist in order to give every­thing they have, to burn out, to sac­ri­fice them­selves. We were taught to love peo­ple with weapons.”


    “My teacher, Ales Adamovich, whose name I men­tion today with grat­i­tude, felt that writ­ing prose about the night­mares of the 20th cen­tu­ry was sac­ri­lege. Noth­ing may be invent­ed. You must give the truth as it is.”


    “Wit­nessеs are not impar­tial. In telling a sto­ry, humans cre­ate, they wres­tle time like a sculp­tor does mar­ble. They are actors and cre­ators.”


    “I began with doubts. Anoth­er book about World War II… What for? On one trip, I met a woman who had been a medic dur­ing the war. She told me a sto­ry: as they crossed Lake Lado­ga dur­ing the win­ter, the ene­my noticed some move­ment and began to shoot at them. Hors­es and peo­ple fell under the ice. It all hap­pened at night. She grabbed some­one she thought was injured and began to drag him toward the shore. “I pulled him, he was wet and naked, I thought his clothes had been torn off,” she told me. Once on shore, she dis­cov­ered that she had been drag­ging an enor­mous wound­ed stur­geon. And she let loose a ter­ri­ble string of obscen­i­ties: peo­ple are suf­fer­ing, but ani­mals, birds, fish – what did they do?…”


    “I wasn’t look­ing for heroes. I was writ­ing his­to­ry through the sto­ries of its unno­ticed wit­ness­es and par­tic­i­pants. They had nev­er been asked any­thing.”


    “I’m absolute­ly con­vinced that there will nev­er again be young women like the war-time girls of 1941.”


    “Suf­fer­ing is our cap­i­tal, our nat­ur­al resource. Not oil or gas – but suf­fer­ing. It is the only thing we are able to pro­duce con­sis­tent­ly. I’m always look­ing for the answer: why doesn’t our suf­fer­ing con­vert into free­dom? Is it tru­ly all in vain? Cha­dayev was right: Rus­sia is a coun­try with­out mem­o­ry, it’s a space of total amne­sia, a vir­gin con­scious­ness for crit­i­cism and reflec­tion.”


    “Before Afghanistan, I believed in social­ism with a human face. I came back from Afghanistan free of all illu­sions.”


    “I’d like to write a book about a per­son who doesn’t shoot, who can’t fire on anoth­er human being, who suf­fers at the very idea of war. Where is he? I haven’t met him.”


    “I have three homes: my Belaru­sian land, the home­land of my father, where I have lived my whole life; Ukraine, the home­land of my moth­er, where I was born; and Russia’s great cul­ture, with­out which I can­not imag­ine myself. All are very dear to me. But in this day and age it is dif­fi­cult to talk about love.”

    THE WHOLE TEXT OF THE LECTURE by Svi­at­lana Alex­ievich

    THE LECTURE IN Swedish, French, Ger­man, Russ­ian

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