The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Louise Glück, the American poet, “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”
The award was announced on Thursday at a news conference in Stockholm.
Glück is the first female poet to win the prize since Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish writer, in 1996. Other poets to have received the award include Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet, who won in 1995. She is the first American to win since Bob Dylan in 2016.
Her 12 collections include “The Wild Iris” for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993, and “Faithful and Virtuous Night” from 2014. She was named the United States’ poet laureate in 2003.
The 2020 Nobel Prizes
Updated Oct. 6, 2020
Last year, the academy was criticized after it awarded the prize to Peter Handke, an Austrian author and playwright who has been accused of genocide denial for questioning events during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s — including the Srebrenica massacre, in which about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered.
That furor came a year after the academy postponed the 2018 prize because of a scandal involving the husband of an academy member who was accused of sexual misconduct and of leaking information to bookmakers. That man, Jean-Claude Arnault, was later sentenced to two years in prison for rape.
Those events marked a low point for the prize, which dates to 1901 and has been awarded to some of the world’s most influential and revered novelists, poets and playwrights. Prominent past laureates include Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Alice Munro, Gabriel García Márquez, Saul Bellow and Albert Camus. In 1964, the academy chose Jean-Paul Sartre, who refused the honor, saying that writers should not accept awards.
Given the recent controversies, many observers expected this year’s award to go to an uncontroversial choice. “The Swedish Academy knows they can’t afford another scandal,” Bjorn Wiman, the culture editor of the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, said in a telephone interview before the announcement.
But an adviser to the prize-giving committee denied this in an email on Wednesday. “We haven’t focused on making a ‘safe’ pick or discussed the choice in such terms,” said Rebecka Karde, a journalist and one of three external experts who helped choose this year’s winner. “It’s all about the quality of the output of the writer who gets it.”
The Nobel Prize in Literature, which is given for a writer’s entire body of work and is regarded as perhaps the most prestigious literary award in the world, comes with a prize of 10 million Swedish krona, or about $1.1 million.
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