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Literature Nobel Prize goes to journalist Svetlana Alexievich

The Nobel Prize for Literature has been announced in Stockholm. For the first time, a journalist has won, with Belarusian investigative reporter Svetlana Alexievich picking up the prize.

Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich has won the Nobel Prize for Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time."

The 67-year-old became the 14th women to win the prize.

Permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, made the announcement on Thursday in the academy's Grand Hall in Stockholm's Old Town district. Danius is the first-ever female permanent secretary of the Academy.

"For the past 30 or 40 years she’s been busy mapping the Soviet and post soviet individual," Danius said of Alexievich, "but it’s not really about a history of events. It’s a history of emotions."

She was born in the Ukrainian town of Stanislav to a Belarusian father and Ukrainian mother. Her literary style of writing made her a favorite among critics.

Alexievich left school to work as a reporter on the local paper in the town of Narovl. Her first book "War’s Unwomanly Face" was based on interviews with hundreds of women who had participated in the second world war. It sold 2 million copies in the Soviet Union.

She moved back to Minsk in 2011 after living in Paris, Gothenburg and Berlin. She has covered events affecting Belarus throughout her career, including the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the Soviet-Aghan war and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Her books have included "Voices From Chernobyl" which gave eyewitness accounts and "Second Hand Time" about Soviet generations adjusting to a post-Soviet world.

Of the 108 Nobel literature prizes awarded, only 14 have gone to women. The majority of past laureates have been Europeans. There were 198 nominees for this year's prize. The last woman to win was Canada’s Alice Munro in 2013.

Ahead of the result for the Prize for Literature, betting firm Ladbrokes had made Alexievich favorite, ahead of Haruki Murakami of Japan, Kenya's Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse or American writer Joyce Carol Oates. Last year, there was betting on French author Patrick Modiano in the days ahead of the announcement which confirmed him as the winner.

Peace Prize

The winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace will be announced on Friday. The secretive Academy is legendary for its prevention of rumors ahead of announcements but the name of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been mentioned in some circles.

Watch video 12:07

Interview: Writer Svetlana Alexievich

Merkel herself dismissed the suggestion saying in a television interview on Wednesday that she was busy with other things. Her policies towards refugees and her role in brokering a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine have given fuel to speculation on her behalf.

Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, has Merkel at the top of his list of front runners for the peace prize. The official list at the Nobel Institute is kept secret but is believed to have 205 individuals and 68 organizations on it. In addition to Merkel, the list may include Eritrean Catholic priest Mussie Zerai who has rescued migrants by taking distress calls at all hours from sinking boats in the Mediterranean and passing them on to the Italian coast guard.

jm/msh (AFP, AP)

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