The Power of Oral History

The awarding of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature to Belarusian journalist and oral historian Svetlana Alexievich is gratifying for, among other things, its recognition of non-fiction as an integral and dynamic sibling to literature. But the Literature Nobel has gone to non-literary genres before. For example, it was given to the Classical Greek and Latin scholar Mommsen in 1902 (the second year of the Prize), peace-activist and philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1950 and, rather more unfortunately, to imperialist historian and biographer Winston Churchill in 1953. But these remain exceptions. Even within literature, the committee has had to soothe the competing claims of various genres — poetry, the novel, drama and the short story.  For full story click here.