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Making space for a new picture of the world: Boys in Zinc and Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich

Rodgers, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-3365-6909 (2019). Making space for a new picture of the world: Boys in Zinc and Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich. Literary Journalism Studies, 11(2), pp. 8-30.


Based on a study of Boys in Zinc and Chernobyl Prayer, two books by the Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, this paper’s core argument is that Alexievich’s writing represents an approach designed to capture that which eludes more conventional journalism. The paper seeks first to situate the subjects of Alexievich’s work in the wider media historical context of the end of the USSR, and also to argue that her writing is part of a uniquely Russian concept of journalism as literature--a concept that has its historical roots in the autocratic Russia of the 19th century. The paper further proposes that conflicts between the preternatural and the material, and between elite and non-elite voices--key themes of the works studied – are vital to understanding the age of change which Alexievich, through her use of extensive interviews, was seeking to record. It emphasizes the significance of the Soviet experience in World War II as an influence on the USSR for the remainder of its existence. It posits that Alexievich’s work also casts valuable light on the nature of journalism in the last years of the Soviet era – and concludes, while acknowledging certain criticisms and questioning of her presentation of her material, by arguing that it represents a way to understand new and bewildering times.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
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