I AM A HUMAN EAR – Kasia Michalak – RADIO LUBLIN – Poland

subtitled video | 33 min


Svetlana Alexandrovna Alexievich is a Belarusian investigative journalist, essayist and oral historian who writes in Russian.
She was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”. 
She is the first writer from Belarus to receive the award.

A feature by Kasia Michalak is a personal account of her meeting with Svetlana Alexievich who visited Poland in May 2019.

By asking questions about the most prominent themes of her writing (women and WW2, the Chernobyl disaster, Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, Lukashenko’s Belarus, or love) Kasia Michalak makes an attempt to understand what – in the Alexievich’s opinion – differs literary work from journalism, and what the major challenges faced by a non-fiction author are.

The scenes with the participation of a composer, Artur Giordano are used, on the one hand, to make a reference to the specific nature of the material the author herself works with (the sound), and on the other – to emphasise the fascination with the “conversational side of human life which we have not been able to capture for literature” which she shares with Svetlana Alexievich.

Sound editor: Piotr Król
Music: Artur Giordano
Narrator: Ilona Zgiet
Translation from Russian: Mariana Krill
Script translation: Sylwia Gołofit-Lenda
Total time: 32 min. 44 sec.
First broadcast: 18.07. 2019


Kasia Michalak


7 thoughts on “I AM A HUMAN EAR – Kasia Michalak – RADIO LUBLIN – Poland


    The voice of the writer Svetlana Alexievich is the true protagonist of this sincere and passionate document.
    The great story, made of death and fear, and the small stories of human beings that oppose love in all its forms, intertwine seamlessly in a touching reflection on the importance of storytelling and listening.
    The dramaturgy of the piece is simple (maybe even too much) and direct: excerpts of an interview with Alexievich alternates with readings from his novels and a dialogue between Michalak and Giordano, author of the music, trying to translate in musical terms the voice of Alexievich.
    But the work on sound proves itself too basic in order to return the depth of Alexievich’s worlds.

  2. I like the ambitions of the project,and the will to analyze the human voice. I’m sure there are element who works much better for an Polish audience. At some points I’m a bit lost in translation. If I knew the author Svetalana Alexievich’s work, I’m sure I would feel more connected : )

  3. I got really interested in both the person and the literature of Svetlana Alexievich. Unfortunately this documentary has acquired an unlooked-for relevance, as Alexievich is followed by the Belarusian security services. The dialogue between the composer and the programmaker gives a nice framing to the portrait, maybea bit too much “scripted”.

  4. That´s interesting, I live in illusion that everybody knows Svetalana Alexievich´s work. Her books are probably more famous for those living in post-communist countries.

    Because of her being so well known in my social bubble (especially now – what a timing for such a story!) I was attracted much more by the story line about the power of human voice and how to find what´s untold in it than by excerpts from her books. I got excited by the opening scene and was curious where it was going to develop. After finishing listening I am wondering if it all worked together well for me. I guess I will give it another listen to make up my mind.

    Anyway it´s a very inspirational example of that could be done with interview that took two hours. Thank you, Kasia!

  5. A few years ago I was lucky to be able to visit a reading of Svetlana Alexievich in Germany. She just had won a German Literature Prize and I guess she was reading from her reportage book “Second-hand time. Life on the ruins of socialism”. Undoubtly she is an important voice in and for her country, but at the same time – and this is no contradiction – she is a great storyteller. By talking about ordinary people she has a clear journalistic compass and manages to see the political impacts. The idea of listening in this piece works for me on both sides of the microphone, on Kasia Michalaks side as well as on Alexievichs side.

  6. Hello Kasia!

    It’s not an easy task to fit Svetlana Alexievich world with all the events, changes and tragedies she’s writing about into a 30 minutes programme but you did it in a very innovative way. And the music! Probably there was a reason for a narrator to follow her verbal intonations – but that’s music too. She may be a controversial figure to some but good to see her art being described in such a honest and non partisan way. Thank you!

  7. Riccardo, Kjetil, Elisabeth, Martina, Leslie and Vladimir – thank you so much for your comments. I will think each of your sentence over. I’m grateful for your time and thoughts. A hug from Lublin!

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