It made a certain kind of sense that the Nobel Prize committee, after two years of being beset by scandals in the literature prize (the announcement of the 2018 prize was delayed a year as the committee dealt with a sexual-assault scandal, and in 2019, it selected Peter Handke, an apologist for Serbian war crimes), would choose a quiet poet of the personal who has steered clear of the political. In October 2020, Louise Glück (born in 1943) was honored for her “unmistakable poetic voice, that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal,” said the academy, in a strangely clotted and unbeautiful sentence.

Glück, a Jewish-American woman of Russian and Hungarian descent, does not emphasize gender, religious, or ethnic identity in her work, umlaut aside.

Even so, the selection of Glück sent startled ripples...


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