LONDON — American poet Louise Glück won the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday for “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal,” the Swedish Academy said.
Glück’s poetry is “characterized by a striving for clarity,” often focusing on childhood and family life, and relationships between parents and siblings, the academy said.
Academy Permanent Secretary Mats Malm said Glück was “surprised and happy” at the news.
The daughter of a Hungarian immigrant, Glück was born in New York in 1943 and is the author of numerous works, including most recently, “Faithful and Virtuous Night.” She won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her most lauded collection, “The Wild Iris.”
A professor of English at Yale University, Glück attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University and was poet Laureate of the United States from 2003 to 2004.
Former President Barack Obama said in 2015, when awarding Glück a National Medal of the Arts and Humanities award, that her “probing poems capture the quiet drama of nature and the quiet emotions of everyday people.” And praised her work as an educator for having “inspired generations of young poets.”
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Glück will take home the 10 million Swedish kronor prize (over $1.1 million) along with a gold medal, courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.
The Nobel Prize for Literature has had a rocky few years. In 2018 the award was postponed after sexual abuse allegations mired the Swedish Academy, the secretive body that chooses the winners, and sparked a mass exodus of members.
After a year hiatus, the academy revamped itself in a bid to regain the trust of the Nobel Foundation. Last year it awarded Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian writer Peter Handke the delayed 2018 and 2019 prizes respectively.
Handke’s prize caused a storm due to his support for Serbia during the 1990s Balkan wars. Several countries including Albania, Bosnia and Turkey boycotted the Nobel awards ceremony in response, and a member of the committee that nominates candidates for the literature prize resigned.
Previous winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature include writers Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison, Bob Dylan, Wole Soyinka and Kazuo Ishiguro.
On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize for physiology and medicine for discoveries related to the liver-ravaging Hepatitis C virus. Tuesday’s prize for physics honored breakthroughs in understanding the mysteries of cosmic black holes, and the chemistry prize on Wednesday went to female scientists behind a powerful gene-editing tool.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.