A Nobel laureate’s views on women’s stories

2015_November_womensWomen tell things in more interesting ways. They live with more feeling. They observe themselves and their lives. Men are more impressed with action. For them, the sequence is more important.

Svetlana Alexievich

2015 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature quoted in the New Yorker, 26 October 2015

I was struck by this observation by Svetlana Alexievich, the Bielorussian author who was named this year’s recipent of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Alexievich writes about contemporary events, after conducting numerous interviews with those affected, and she tends to favor the stories of women.

In her own words for the New Yorker article, she grew up listening to the stories of women in her village, while the men were nearby — passed out, drunk.

There has been much debate in recent years about female authors being overlooked by many of the prominent book reviews, about the need for prizes such as the Bailey’s Prize for women authors, since these same authors are often overlooked or poorly represented by the mainstream literary prizes.

As a reader whose preference tends to skewer towards female authors, I was struck by this observation. I continue to read many novels by male authors, and grew up reading the canon of Great Male Authors.

But now that I choose to read for my own pleasure, I skewer towards female authors. Like Alexievich, I feel they often feel more than their male counterparts and they observe more closely the world around them. Another reason to celebrate diversity in writing.

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