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Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature Announced

By Ethan Shea

"Abdulrazak Gurnah Books"

“By the Sea” and “Desertion” by Abdulrazak Gurnah

The Nobel Prize in Literature is widely known as the most prestigious award a writer can receive. The distinguished prize was first awarded in 1901 and is traditionally announced annually, but in spite of its 120 year lifespan, this literary accolade has only been awarded 114 times. This is because the committee does not necessarily need to choose a winner for any given Nobel Prize. In fact, with regard to the 1948 Nobel Peace Prize, after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, who never won a Nobel Prize, the committee claimed “there was no suitable living candidate” to receive the award that year. Additionally, various scandals and global events have caused awards to be postponed or dismissed entirely.

"Abdulrazak Gurnah"

2021 Nobel Prize in Literature Winner, Abdulrazak Gurnah

Regardless, in spite of the challenges posed to humanity over the past couple years, last month, Abdulrazak Gurnah became the first Black writer to win a Nobel Prize in Literature since Toni Morrison in 1993. The prize committee praised Gurnah’s “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism” when announcing his achievement.

Gurnah is a Tanzanian writer who grew up in Zanzibar. In 1964, violence within his homeland forced him to relocate to England. His experience living in both nations gives Gurnah a unique perspective on colonial exploitation that saturates his writing.

Although Gurnah’s work has previously been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, until now, he has not reached the level of widespread acclaim that many other Nobel Prize winners have. Gurnah’s previous lack of recognition makes his win an especially welcome event within literary circles.

Falvey Memorial Library houses some of Abdulrazak Gurnah’s books, such as Desertion and By The Sea, which live on the shelves of our Fourth Floor Stacks. Feel free to stop by and grab one of these books for yourself! Additionally, through interlibrary loan (ILL) and E-ZBorrow, you have access to some of Gurnah’s other books!


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student at Villanova university and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.

 


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Dig Deeper: Nobel Prize in Literature 2020 Recipient, Louise Glück

Art courtesy of Joanne Quinn, Director of Communication and Marketing

All Hallows

BY LOUISE GLÜCK
Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside

among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here,
Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.

The recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, American poet Louise Glück “examines our compulsion to tell the same stories, again and again.” As Walt Hunter wrote in The Atlantic,One of the most striking qualities about the poetry of Glück, is the way it returns to the start of things—a story, a myth, a day, a marriage, a childhood. The question How do we begin anew? runs throughout the poet’s work, from Firstborn (1968) to her most recent collection, Faithful and Virtuous Night (2014).”

Glück is the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for writing poetry since the literature category was established in 1901. The author of 12 poetry collections and several essays, she has received numerous accolades for her work:

She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1999, was appointed as the Library of Congress’s twelfth poet laureate in 2003, and in 2015 received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama. Glück received the Nobel Prize for “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” As Anders Olsson, Chairman of the Nobel Committee wrote, “In her poems, the self listens for what is left of its dreams and delusions, and nobody can be harder than she in confronting the illusions of the self. She seeks the universal, and in this she takes inspiration from myths and classical motifs, present in most of her works. The voices of Dido, Persephone and Eurydice–the abandoned, the punished, the betrayed–are masks for a self in transformation, as personal as it is universally valid.”

Glück was born in New York City in 1943 and was raised on Long Island. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University. She is a professor of English, Rosenkranz Writer-in-Residence, at Yale University, and currently resides in Cambridge, Mass.

Learn more about Louise Glück:


Text by Kallie Stahl, Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library. Links curated by Sarah Wingo, MA, MSI, the Liaison Librarian for English Lit, Theatre, and Romance Languages.


 


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Last Modified: November 3, 2020