POST TIME: 18 October, 2020 06:13:15 PM
Louise Glück as winner of this year’s Nobel literature prize
Many literary critics opine that the beauty and the power of Gluck's work will be overshadowed by the fact that the Swedish Academy has been overlooking so many incredibly important writers who do not come from the United States or Europe
Masum Billah

Louise Glück as winner of this year’s Nobel literature prize

Louise Glück, the professor of English at Yale University, USA, won the Nobel Prize in literature this year (2020). She has written numerous poetry collections, many of which deal with themes of childhood, death and human mortality, the challenges of family life and growing older. The Wild Iris and Faithful and Virtuous Night belong to this category. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for writing The Wild Iris. Her other honours include the 2001 Bollingen Prize for Poetry, the Wallace Stevens Award in 2008, and a National Humanities Medal in 2015. She was also editor of the anthology The Best American Poetry 1993. Her poetry focuses on the painful reality of being human, dealing with themes such as death, childhood, and family life. Louise  stands as the fourth woman to win the Nobel Literature Prize in the past decade after Olga Tokarczuk, Svetlana Alexievich and Alice Munro and only the 16th since the Nobel prizes were first awarded in 1901. The 77-year-old poet has also previously been recognized with the National Book Award. Her works are "characterized by a striving for clarity and she draws on myths and classical motifs in most of her works to seek the universal, often adapting and incorporating Greek and Roman mythology.”

From an early age Louise was drawn to reading and writing poetry. Her parents read her classical mythology as bedtime stories, and she was transfixed by the tales of Greek gods and heroes. She explored the themes in her work later. She set her mind to becoming a poet when she was in her early teens though at the age of five she wrote some verses.  She struggled with anorexia as a teenager. Anorexia is a disease that she attributed to her obsession with purity and achieving control, and almost starved herself to death before eventually recovering through therapy. She carved her path in the literary scene in 1968 with her collection, Firstborn. Her strong grasp over technical control as well as her rich use of language stood out from then itself. This clarity marked her oeuvre along with her pointed insights on themes like relationships, death, failed love encounters and deaths. Her visionary reworking of Greek and Roman myths are evidenced in her 2006 collection Averno. It retells the myth of Persephone’s descent into hell and captivity of the god of death, Hades. Her other works include Descending Figure, The Triumph of Achilles and Ararat.  Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel literature committee, praised the poet’s twelve collections of poems for being a testament of her “striving for clarity”. Olsson, was further quoted saying that her verses are “austere but also playful intelligence and a refined sense of composition,” and her voice “candid and uncompromising”.

Louise’s The Triumph of Achilles was published in 1985 where she exhibited enviable control over her craft, making figures from history part of her own, guiding the readers’ reading intimately but also with rare authority. She also published a collection of illuminating essays, titled Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry which won her the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction in 1993. William Logan expounds on her style in the article, Nothing Remains of Love in New York Times “Louise Glück’s wary, pinch-mouthed poems have long represented the logical outcome of a certain strain of confessional verse — starved of adjectives, thinned to a nervous set of verbs, intense almost past bearing, her poems have been dark, damaged and difficult to avert your gaze from. He writes more on how her prose is funny in a ghoulish way, probably one that sparks for being too dark. Every desire in Glück is cautious, every pleasure suspect. She’s almost a feral poet, beadily watching her prey before making a devastating remark. Her collection Ararat was described in the New York Times a few years ago as "the most brutal and sorrow-filled book of American poetry published in the last 25 years". Sadness and grief are certainly a frequent part of what she writes, yet she is hardly a depressing writer.

 At the age of 77, Gluck can look forward to many new readers - and they can look forward to discovering a poet of insight and humanity. She writes oneiric, narrative poetry recalling memories and travels, only to hesitate and pause for new insights. An independent literary organization says that Louise’s style is notable for its "technical precision, sensitivity, and insight into loneliness, family relationships, divorce, and death. Her words "take readers on an inner journey by exploring their deepest, most intimate feelings. Gluck is an extraordinary poet, only the 16th woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. But an American won the award only three years ago, Bob Dylan. And it's frankly impossible at this point to ignore that this is now an award that's been recently dominated by white writers to a staggering degree. Eight out of the last ten winners have been white, the other two Asian. More Austrian playwrights have won the Nobel Literary Award in the last twenty years than Black writers in the same period of time. A lot of people predicted and hoped that the Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong'o was going to win this year. He's 82 and an elder statesman of post-colonial literature. Many literary critics opine that the beauty and the power of Gluck's work will be overshadowed by the fact that the Swedish Academy has been overlooking so many incredibly important writers who do not come from the United States or Europe. However, we salute Louse Gluck.

The writer works for BRAC Education and President of English Teachers’ Association of Bangladesh (ETAB). Email:[email protected]