• October 9, 2015

    Keith Gessen

    Keith Gessen

    Two of Svetlana Alexievich’s translators responded in the Guardian to yesterday’s announcement that she had won the Nobel Prize in Literature: Bela Shayevich, who’s at work on an English version of Second-hand Time, her “collection of oral histories from the dissolution of the Soviet Union to the anti-Putin protests of 2012,” quoted from Alexievich’s introduction: “History’s sole concern is the facts; emotions are outside of its realm of interest. . . . But I look at the world as a writer, and not strictly an historian.” And Keith Gessen (who translated Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster in 2004) reflected on the politics of her win: “When a critic of the Russian (as well as, in this case, Belarusian) regime receives a prize, it’s hard not to read it as a rebuke to the Kremlin. . . . But Alexievich’s work is also very much the opposite of most rebukes coming at Russia from the west. The people she talks to, the co-authors of her books, are working people, women and elderly people – precisely those who are left behind when we bring the former USSR our IMF-tailored ‘reforms,’ our sharp-looking investment bankers, our latest anti-tank weapons. Alexievich’s voices are those of the people no one cares about, but the ones whose lives constitute the vast majority of what history actually is.”

    If you missed this profile of “critic’s critic” and all-round delight George Scialabba, it’s time to remedy that.

    Mother Jones has an intriguing account of the protracted legal battle it just won after being sued by Frank VanderSloot, a major Republican donor—in fact, “one of the megadonors who will help determine who wins the 2016 GOP nomination”—over an article they published during the 2012 presidential primaries: “Had he been successful, it would have been a chilling indicator that the 0.01 percent can control not only the financing of political campaigns, but also media coverage of those campaigns.”

    A former congresswoman has described having to remove all references to WikiLeaks documents she used in her PhD thesis, which had caused a university librarian to “completely, totally freak,” fearing she might be subpoenaed.

    As part of Dissent’s monthly interview series, Booked, Timothy Shenk has a fascinating conversation about politics and environmentalism with Jedediah Purdy.

    Jake Silverstein, editor-in-chief of the New York Times magazine, on its relaunch earlier this year, and on giving up writing for editing: “What I always loved about writing was just putting on a show for the reader. I always thought about writing in a theatrical way, like you’re essentially staging a performance for the reader. And I think about the magazine that way. I think about putting on a performance.”

    It seems possible that a small rip will appear in literary space-time should too many Janeites contract “Ferrante fever.”

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