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The Nobel to Louise Glück

2020 Nobel prize in Literature; Louise Gluck

A "poetic voice" with "austere beauty (that) makes individual existence universal". This is what the Nobel Prize for Literature jurors rewarded when they crowned the American poet Louise Glück on Thursday, October 8. A choice that should cause less turmoil than that of Austrian Peter Handke in 2019.

While the latter is undoubtedly a great writer and playwright, his support for the former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, prosecuted before his death for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, had provoked protests all the way to the Nobel Committee, two years after the scandal that had destroyed the Swedish Academy and led to the postponement of the 2018 Literature Prize (announced at the same time as 2019 and awarded to the Polish Olga Tokarczuk). In this 113th edition, Louise Glück is the sixteenth woman to be so crowned.

The 77-year-old writer, on the other hand, is considered on the other side of the Atlantic to be one of the greatest English-language poets of her time, admired by a number of writers, who greeted the announcement of her prize on Twitter, following the example of Daniel Mendelsohn. She has also received major literary awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize for The Wild Iris (1992), the National Book Award for Faithful and Virtuous Night in 2014, and the Los Angeles Times Award in 2012 for Poems 1962-2012.

Louise Glück, a Nobel Winner Whose Poems Have Abundant Interpretation

The publication of poems before she turned 20.

Born in 1943 in New York City, raised on Long Island and a graduate of Columbia University, Louise Glück published her first poems before she was 20 years old. The Poetry Foundation's comprehensive website notes among her remarkable qualities "the technical precision of her poetry, her sensitivity, her exploration of loneliness, family relationships, divorce and death (...), and her reworking of Greek and Roman myths such as Persephone and Demeter.

The Nobel Prize for Literature, how does it work?

Is it because she writes only poetry - a niche market for publishing - that Louise Glück, at 77, has remained ignored by french readers? The fact is that her sudden consecration created an effect of surprise similar to the one provoked, outside her native Poland, by the choice of the poetess Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) in 1996.

Louise Glück: literature Nobel for American lyric poet a healing choice after years of controversy

Until now, only excerpts from L'Iris sauvage had appeared in translation in the journals Po&sie (2014) and Europe (2013), to which must be added a handful of isolated poems, taken from Vita Nova (1999) and Descending Figure (1980), also in Po&sie, but more than twenty and thirty years ago (1999 and 1985). In the original language, however, his output is impressive: seventeen collections - the latest published by the prestigious New York firm Farrar, Straus and Giroux - as well as an essay on poetic creation, Proofs and Theories (1994).

In spite of everything, the newly awarded remembers the composition of those poems of the nineties as moments of effervescence: none of them took her more than a month and a half. The others were something else. The attacks of 9/11 gave rise to a book of one poem -October (2004)-, which was followed in 2006 by Averno, in which another classic myth reappears: Persephone, the queen of the dead. Una vida de pueblo (2009) -published in Spanish by Pre-Textos last May- and Faithful and Virtuous Night (2014) close for now a work written, as its author says, against pain and loss: "If you manage to do something with them, they will never defeat you again". In the first verse of her most famous book, The Wild Iris, she says it like this: "At the end of the suffering / a door was waiting for me. / Listen to me: that which you call death / I remember it". Today, also at the end, the door of the Nobel Prize was waiting for her.

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