Cover Osteuropa 1-2/2018

In Osteuropa 1-2/2018

More than history
Svetlana Alexievich’s documentary prose

Clemens Günther

Deutsche Fassung


There are critics and readers who deny the literary nature of Svetlana Alexievich’s work. However, in doing so, they fail to recognise the fact that her prose goes far beyond a pure accumulation of voices. In Alexievich’s rendering, narrated testimony is consciously artistically reworked, allowing it to unfold its very own aesthetic power. Her concept of art has its precursors in the Soviet documentary prose of the 1920s and 1930s and in the dissident literature of writers such as Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov. Alexievich focuses her attention on historical topics that have to date been marginalised and supplements these with an emotional perspective and a sense of the suffering involved. Her artistic process consists of piecing together, achieving the power of suggestion in her prose through dialogicity and emotionalisation. However, this process is at odds with the factographic claim to validity postulated by the author which has to date dominated the perception of her oeuvre among literary critics.

(Osteuropa 1-2/2018, pp. 83–97)