Writer Svyatlana Aleksiyevich presents her new work at international book fair in Minsk
Award-winning Belarusian writer Svyatlana Aleksiyevich (Svetlana Alexievich) on February 8 presented her new book, Second-hand Time: The Demise of the Red (Wo)man, at the BelExpo National Exhibition Center, the venue of the 21st Minsk International Book Fair.
Hundreds of people showed up, packing the small exhibition section that had been reserved for the event.
The 65-year-old author, who has been living abroad since 2000, answered dozens of questions about her new book and previous works and dwelt on the theme of Belarusians’ mentality in the global context and the category of people called “Homo Sovieticus” who still inhabit post-Soviet countries.
According to Ms. Aleksiyevich, Belarusians are still unable to finally say goodbye to communism/socialism. “Time stands still here,” she said.
“Wherever I am, many people come to meet me, seeking to understand what is going on here, what kind of nation it is, which always looks back, which takes one step forward and then one step back,” she said. “When I say ‘nation,’ I mean the entire post-Soviet region because we had a common country and still have a common mode of thinking.”
“We can see that socialism is a complicated phenomenon, and that the post-Soviet individual is both the victim and the killer,” Ms. Aleksiyevich said. “This book makes us think about this world. It helps us understand that it is difficult for people to change in this world.”
“Belarus is probably experiencing a transitional period that has to be gone through,” Ms. Aleksiyevich said. “We should not give way to despair. We have done the main thing. Communism has been overcome. I would like to say to young people that they should prepare for a European future. It will come. But they should bear in mind that capitalism is a tough thing.”
Second-hand Time, published in Moscow by the Vremya Publishing House, is the fifth of the writer’s seven-volume “factional” chronicle titled, The Autobiography of a Utopia, or the History of the Red Man.
The monologues contained in the book were written down by the author during her trips around the post-Soviet region during the past decade.
Svetlana Aleksiyevich was born in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, on May 31, 1948. After graduating from the journalism department at Belarusian State University, she worked as a reporter and journalist and a correspondent for the literary magazine Neman in Minsk.
Her documentary prose has been translated into dozens of languages. Her books have won international awards, including the Peace Prize of the City of Osnabruck, RFI’s Prix Temoin du Monde, the Moscow Andrei Sinyavsky Prize, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize from the Swedish PEN and the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding. The history of the Soviet and post-Soviet person is the subject of most of her books, of which Voices from Chernobyl, for which she received the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award, is probably the most successful.
For the Polish edition of her first book, The Unwomanly Face of the War (1985), she received the Ryszard Kapuscinski Prize in 2011 and the Angelus Central European Literature Award.
Ms. Aleksiyevich’s books have not been published in Belarus since Alyaksandr Lukashenka came to power in 1994.