When I tell you which writer from Belarus SHOULD have won the Nobel Prize this year, as I’m about to do, it’s not because I have anything against Svetlana Alexievich, the official winner, whose work I don’t know very well, having only encountered it in the magazine n+1, where I skimmed over it because I still can’t shake the feeling that her translator, Keith Gessen, is somehow a douchebag.
Instead, when I tell you which writer from Belarus SHOULD have won the Nobel Prize this year, what I’m saying is that, despite the fact that I’m an American and Americans supposedly don’t read much fiction in translation, and despite the fact that Belarus is a relatively small and unacknowledged contributor to world literature, it just so happens that I can name a writer from Belarus who is TOTALLY FUCKING AWESOME and who deserves all the praise in the world, including (if I had my way) the Nobel Prize.
The writer from Belarus who SHOULD have won the Nobel Prize this year is everything your traditional Nobel Prize winner is not—he’s edgy, contemporary, and heavily influenced by rock music. This writer is like a specter rising from the ashes of the Soviet Union to condemn his political overlords and his bourgeois contemporaries with a defiant shrug and a silent pledge that he—if no one else—will keep on rocking. I know this writer because I have read his work—especially his latest novel to be translated into English—many times over. I know this writer because here at Fiction Advocate, we publish him.
Vladimir Kozlov will never win the Nobel Prize. His work—especially USSR: Diary of a Perestroika Kid, translated by Andrea Gregovich—is too grim, too deadpan, too literal about the unglamorous realities of daily life in Soviet Belarus. To the gray-haired do-gooders of European literature who award the Nobel Prize each year, Vladimir Kozlov is just too punk.
And that’s why he deserves all the prizes we’ve got.
Brian Hurley is Books Editor at The Rumpus and an editor at Fiction Advocate.