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PINING FOR THE TSAR

Svetlana Alexievich’s powerful oral history Secondhand Time offers a unique window into the fall of the Soviet Union

FOR THE PAST 35 years, Svetlana Alexievich has traversed the former Soviet Union, Dictaphone in hand, recording thousands of interviews with ordinary people—from construction workers in Siberia to helicopter pilots in Ukraine. Alexievich’s methods have earned her comparisons to American historians Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn, but her accomplishments are in a category of their own: In 2015, the 68-year-old journalist became the first primarily nonfiction writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature since Winston Churchill did it in 1953.

EVERYBODY’S A CRITIC: Censors blocked Alexievich’s first book for two years, complaining that the war she described was horrible and that she did not have any heroes.
ISOLDE OHLBAUM/LAIF/REDUX
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