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American poet Louise Glück wins Nobel Prize for Literature

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This file photo taken on November 19, 2014 shows US author Louise Gluck giving a speech at the 2014 National Book Awards in New York City.
This file photo taken on November 19, 2014 shows US author Louise Gluck giving a speech at the 2014 National Book Awards in New York City.   -   Copyright  Robin Marchant / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP
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The Nobel Prize for Literature for 2020 has been awarded to the American poet Louise Glück.

Born in 1943, Glück has won many awards in the United States including the Pulitzer Prize.

She won the prestigious Nobel literary prize "for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal", said the Swedish Academy, the body that chooses the winners.

Glück's work is often inspired by myths and history, sometimes drawing on personal experiences and modern life. She has been described as an autobiographical poet.

The prize was announced in Stockholm by Mats Malm, the academy's permanent secretary.

New York-born Glück, 77, who is a professor of English at Yale University, made her debut in 1968 with “Firstborn,” and “was soon acclaimed as one of the most prominent poets in American contemporary literature,” the Nobel Academy said.

Her poetry is “characterized by a striving for clarity," often focusing on childhood and family life, and close relationship with parents and siblings, it said.

It noted her 2006 collection “Averno,” calling it “masterly” and “a visionary interpretation of the myth of Persephone’s descent into hell in the captivity of Hades, the god of death.”

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File
In this Sept. 22, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama embraces poet Louise Gluck before awarding her the 2015 National Humanities Medal during a ceremony in Washington.AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

Glück's name had not appeared among the favourites as listed by British bookmakers. They had placed Canadian poet Anne Carson as the 5-1 favourite, ahead of Russian novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Canadian author Margaret Atwood and Guadeloupe-born writer Maryse Conde.

The literary award, which comes with a prize of 10 million kronor (€950,000), has been plagued by controversy in recent years. In 2018 it was postponed after the Swedish Academy was hit by sex abuse allegations. Several members walked out.

Then in 2019 two laureates were named after the academy revamped itself. The 2018 prize was awarded retrospectively to Olga Tokarczuk from Poland, while the 2019 prize went to Austria's Peter Handke.

However that caused a storm of protest. Handke was a strong supporter of the Serbs during the 1990s Balkans wars, and has been called an apologist for Serbian war crimes.

The Nobel awards ceremony was boycotted by several countries including Albania, Bosnia and Turkey. One member of the committee that nominates candidates for the literary prize resigned.

The 2015 winner of the literary prize was Svetlana Alexievich, who has recently received media attention as part of Belarus' opposition coordination council.

In late September she left the country for Germany for medical treatment, having been the only member of the council's leadership neither in jail nor in exile following the crackdown by Alexander Lukashenko's dictatorship. The opposition movement said she intended to return to Belarus when possible.

This week the Nobel Committee has awarded the prize for medicine for discovering the Hepatitis C virus, the physics prize for breakthroughs in understanding cosmic black holes, and Wednesday's chemistry prize went to two scientists behind a gene-editing tool.

The prestigious peace prize and the economics award are still to be awarded.