American Louise Gluck wins Nobel Prize for Literature
By Daniel Trotta and Anna Ringstrom
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - American poet Louise Gluck won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature for work on the study of family and childhood with a "distinctive ... voice that makes individual existence universal with austere beauty," the Swedish Academy said on Thursday .
Academy Secretary of State Mats Malm said Gluck, 77, also a multiple winner of US literary awards, was "surprised and happy" with the news when it came in the early hours of US time. She made no comment to journalists gathered outside her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
As a professor of English at Yale University, Gluck received critical acclaim in 1968 with her collection of poems "Firstborn" and became one of the most famous poets and essayists in America today.
The Swedish Academy said that in Gluck's works "the self listens to what is left of its dreams and delusions, and no one can be more difficult than they to confront illusions of the self".
The Academy drew comparisons with other authors and said that Gluck resembled the 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson in her "rigor and unwillingness to accept simple principles of belief".
While describing her work as "preoccupied with error and changing living conditions", the Academy said Gluck was "also a poet of radical change and rebirth, where the leap forward is made from a deep sense of loss".
Gluck was born in New York and is the 16th woman to have received the most prestigious award in the literary world since the Nobel Prizes were first introduced more than a century ago.
Drawing on her own experiences in her poems, Gluck, who has been divorced twice in her younger years and suffers from anorexia, examines universal themes resonating with readers in the United States and abroad.
Erica McAlpine, Associate Professor of English at Oxford University in the UK, said Gluck "managed to feel urgently contemporary and timeless at the same time". She added:
"The occasional desolation of her voice speaks particularly well of our present moment, and yet her poetry has always been closely linked to the long lyrical tradition behind it."
In her poems, "love, loss, desire and beauty wear the specific dress of their own life while turning everyday life into something mythical," added McAlpine.
NOBEL PRIZE POSSIBLY FOR BROAD COMPLAINT
Jonathan Galassi, president of their publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, said via email that he was certain the Nobel Prize would bring happiness "many, many new readers".
“She is one of the rare contemporary female poets whose work has the gift of speaking directly to readers through her great and subtle art,” he said.
Gluck was awarded the US Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for her poetry collection "The Wild Iris". The title poem touches on suffering and is reminiscent of images of the natural world.
She was the United States Poet Laureate in 2003/04 and won the US National Book Award six years ago for her "Faithful and Virtuous Night" collection.
In 2015, then-President Barack Obama honored Gluck with the National Medal of Arts and Humanities, saying her "exploratory poems capture the silent drama of nature and the silent emotions of everyday people".
Nobel Prizes in Medicine, Physics and Chemistry were awarded earlier this week. The peace prize will be announced on Friday.
The prizes are named after the dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and have been awarded according to his will since 1901.
Gluck's Nobel Prize followed years of controversy over the literary prize, but Malm avoided questions about whether Gluck was chosen to address related concerns.
Alluding to previous disputes, he told reporters, "I would say that in our Nobel (prize) work, the crisis was not critical."
In 2019, the academy exceptionally named two winners after postponing the 2018 award after a sexual assault scandal involving the husband of one of its members.
The secret, 234-year-old academy later announced changes that it billed to improve the transparency of the procurement process.
One of the literary prize winners announced last year, the Austrian Peter Handke, had criticized his portrayal of Serbia as a victim during the Balkan wars of the 1990s and the funeral of its strong nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic.
The 2016 Literature Prize, given to the American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, polarized opinion on whether a popular musician should receive an award that was largely reserved for writers and playwrights.
Like much of public life around the world, this year's awards took place in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the cancellation of the lively Nobel Prize ceremony that took place every December in Stockholm.
Instead, a television event will be held where the winners will be honored in their home countries.
(Additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee, Niklas Pollard and Johannes Hellstrom in Stockholm, Daniel Trotta in New York; writing by Justyna Pawlak; editing by Mark Heinrich and Hugh Lawson)
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