A Transatlantic Conversation with 2015's Nobel Prize winner in literature, Svetlana Alexievich
On March 14, 2016, GMF Berlin's office hosted a Transatlantic Conversation with 2015's Nobel Prize winner in literature; Svetlana Alexievich. The conversation explored the role of the culture of war and the moral imperative of the writer. The event was moderated by Anton Troianovski, the Berlin correspondent of The Wall Street Journal.
During the talk, Alexievich emphasized her belief that fearing the future is one of the characteristics of our time as new challenges are impossible to foresee or prevent. It is fear that has nurtured the rise of populists in Germany, Poland, the U.S., as well in Russia where there has been a sweeping support for Putin.
The writer also discussed the negative attitude towards refugees in former communist countries: In her opinion this has to do with the culture of fear of any newcomers, outsiders, and the tradition of defending your Motherland from them. She gave an example of Russia that just three years ago seemed on the verge of disintegration but was glued back together by the hatred towards the outside enemy. At the same time, she praised the strategic approach of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has invited refugees which in the long-run will teach Germans to share with the newcomers as their surge will grow with the years.
The Nobel laureate also talked about freedom as a long, thorny path; it cannot be established in one day. And under current challenges people should not fall into despair, but continue doing what they are good at, maintain their circle of like-minded countrymen, educate the others, help the evolution and development of civil society.
When asked about the role of the writer, Alexievich explained that it is crucial to see into the deep of a man, scrapping through the layers of banality, giving voice both to the executor and the victim, pointing out, however, who of them is right. She believes that whereas “the social man” repeats his story in cycles, waging wars, and causing catastrophes, “the metaphysical man” is always new and eternal. Thus, Alexievich has finished her series on the Great Utopia of the Soviet project and its culture of war, and although wars continue, she said everything she wanted. Her new book is about love that is not necessarily easier than the war, but is a reason to live.
The event closed with an autograph session and continued conversations between the writer and members of the audience.