A Nobel Laureate’s Sobering Message about Belarus

By Carl Gershman

On Monday, the Nobel Committee will present its prize for literature to Svetlana Alexievich, a writer from Belarus, which is frequently called “Europe’s last dictatorship.” Unlike most authors who have received this prize, Alexievich doesn’t write fiction or poetry. Her books are based on interviews with ordinary people who speak for themselves about the traumas of Belarus’s modern history, including the Chernobyl disaster, the war in Afghanistan, and the experience of being “preserved in a time warp” under the dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko. These “voices of utopia,” as she calls them, document “Homo Sovieticus,” the mindset of people who live in what she calls a “second-hand time…of the old, old prejudices.”

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