The Swedish Academy has announced American poet, Louise Glück, as the 2020 Nobel prize for literature winner, she also walks home with the £870,000 in prize money.
She becomes the first American woman to win the award in 27 years since Toni Morrison took the prize in 1993. She also became the 16th woman ever of the 117 Nobel literature laureates.
She emerged the winner over Canadian poet Anne Carson, Antiguan-American writer Jamaica Kincaid, Chinese novelist Yan Lianke, Russian novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Japanese bestseller Haruki Murakami and perennial contender Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o, the Kenyan novelist, poet, and playwright, who have all been named as possible winners by observers.
Glück has previously won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, tackling themes including childhood and family life, often reworking Greek and Roman myths.
According to the chairman of the Nobel Prize committee, Anders Olsson while comparing Gluck to Emily Dickinson hailed her for her “candid and uncompromising” voice, which is “full of humour and biting wit”.
“Her 12 collections of poetry, from Faithful and Virtuous Night to The Wild Iris are characterised by a striving for clarity. In her poems, the self-listens for what is left of its dreams and delusions, and nobody can be harder than she in confronting the illusions of the self. But even if Glück would never deny the significance of the autobiographical background, she is not to be regarded as a confessional poet” Olsson said.
The Nobel committee singled out Snowdrops, a poem from her Pulitzer-winning collection The Wild Iris, in which she evokes the return of life after winter. “I did not expect to survive, / earth suppressing me,” Glück writes. “I didn’t expect / to waken again, to feel / in damp earth my body / able to respond again …”
Olsson called her collection Averno, an interpretation of the myth of Persephone’s descent into hell with Hades, “masterly”, adding that the National Book Award-winning collection Faithful and Virtuous Night is “another spectacular achievement.
“The reader is again struck by the presence of voice and Glück approaches the motif of death with remarkable grace and lightness. She writes oneiric, narrative poetry recalling memories and travels, only to hesitate and pause for new insights. The world is disenthralled, only to become magically present once again” Olsson added.
Born in 1943, Glück has written 12 collections of poetry and a book of essays – about poetry – titled Proofs and Theories. Her most recent collection was 2014’s Faithful and Virtuous Night. Over a career spanning six decades, she has explored trauma, death, and healing, in poems that scholars have argued as both confessional and not.
Gluck has written about developing anorexia as a teenager, which she later said was the result of her efforts to assert independence from her mother, as well as the death of her older sister, which happened before Gluck was born. While in therapy, she elected to enroll in poetry workshops over a traditional college education and began to develop her voice. She published her first collection, Firstborn in 1968.
She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1993 for her collection The Wild Iris. She was appointed the US poet laureate in 2003 and visited the White House to receive the National Humanities medal from US president Barack Obama in 2016.