Svetlana Alexievich speaks about love, reality and writing

Eurozine-Soviet-couple-statueSvetlana Alexievich at Eurozine:

In the beginning, I start out with certain intuitions about the book – that is, ideas. Ideas, which are rather general. ‘Women at war’, for instance, or ‘love’. These are very general ideas. Then I go through the material in depth. It amounts to an awful lot of interviews and the process can take quite a few years. Eventually, there are hundreds of interviews, it’s a chaotic time. You could simply drown among the thousands of pages. There are so very many. Thousands of pages, hundreds of individuals … you keep searching and searching and thinking and then, suddenly, it happens, as if by its own volition. You suddenly sense the lines to follow through all the words. See the most important patterns. Often, it is a matter of a few dozens of fundamental stories in which the idea, the philosophy that’s already taking shape inside you somehow finds a shared sphere. And then, the central idea emerges. The sound of the book, as I usually call it. A title surfaces and the material begins to fall into place. But, still … all the time, up to the last moment, up to when I enter the last full stop, I carry on working. Because the narrative can be in a key that makes it necessary for you clear something away in another story. It can happen that something new strikes you. I suddenly remember something that I forgot to ask somebody – and then I return to speak to that person. In short, it’s a crazily complex job … a crazy job!

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