Dalkey Archive Publisher on Nobel-Winner Svetlana Alexievich

In News by Dennis Abrams

“Alexievich is exactly what this prize is supposed to be about – truth, morality and the courage to go against the accepted view,” says her US publisher John O’Brien.

By Dennis Abrams

Voices from ChernobylWriting in the Irish Times about Svetlana Alexievich’s Nobel Prize win, Eileen Battersby interviewed John O’Brien of Dalkey Archive Press, who has published Alexivich’s best-known title in the U.S., Voices from Chernobyl.

Speaking about the win, O’Brien said:

“Alexievich is exactly what this prize is supposed to be about – truth, morality and the courage to go against the accepted view. She is also a very good writer. I felt she would win; she had been a frontrunner before and it’s funny I’d been saying that she would win, but when I got a message from Europe early this morning, 6am my time, telling me ‘you’d better reprint the book’, I stopped for a moment and wondered ‘now what’s all this about?’ But then I knew and well …”

Her win has attracted widespread interest in the U.S. He also spoke about the luck he had in discovering her work:

“I was speaking to the publisher of Glas, a small Russian literary journal at the London Book Fair. Like all small magazines and presses, she had no money and she was asking me about grants. She gave me a copy of the latest issue; that would have been about 2002. I began reading an Alexievich article and was really impressed by the writing, especially the tone – the anger and the irony.”

The very next year, after commissioning Keith Gessen to do a new translation, he purchased the rights to Voices, which went on to win the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2005.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.