Nobel Prize in Literature goes to Louise Glück

The 77-year-old author and English professor Louise Glück has been named as this year's recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. In announcing its decision the Swedish Academy cited Glück's unmistakable poetic voice, noting how it transposes individual existence into universal experience. While some commentators take a similar view, others lament a lack of political relevance in the laureate's work.

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Kommersant (RU) /

Emotions as a microcosm of maximum clarity

Kommersant is fascinated by the unusual content of the prizewinner's poetic texts:

“These are texts about how people feel when they experience pain, loss, hatred, envy, fatigue or loss, or when they are angry or happy. ... Like most of the great poets of the last two centuries, Glück is interested in human beings in themselves - but in their most ordinary manifestations. This requires the power of maximum clarity and simplicity. Describe your loss exactly as you would describe flowers in your own garden - but at the same time as precisely as you see the play of colours. That seems almost impossible? No, it's not: Glück shows how it's done.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

An old-fashioned, wise decision

Lidové noviny is happy that political considerations played no role here:

“Along with the Nobel Peace Prize, the Prize in Literature is the most discussed. It is an honour which has passed by those who were considered favourites and been bestowed on successful outsiders. And it is a reflection of social demands and developments. In 2020 we are dealing with an almost mandatory sympathy for Black Lives Matter and outspoken anti-racism. Films, for example, only receive awards if they offer the right racial mix. One might think that the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature would also go in this direction. So far, however, this has not been the case, as the example of Louise Glück shows. The Swedish Academy has kept to the old-fashioned view that literature should be literature.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

A backward-looking choice

The taz, on the other hand, is not satisfied with the decision:

“Glück prefers to dedicate herself to traditional lyrical subjects, 'Betrayal, mortality, love and loss'. .... God knows, all of these are serious, general human problems, even if in Glück's world they can be very clearly assigned to a certain class, which is white in the US. But my goodness! The leading lyrical voices of her generation in the US, namely Judith Ortíz Cofer, Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde, evoked the political nature of private life with so much more urgency. ... Internationally, Glück can only be seen as one of many very good female lyric poets who, firmly anchored in a tradition originating in Europe, have mastered the keyboard of Greek mythology as few others have done. ... What is certain is: with its choice, the Academy has taken a decision that looks back into the past.”