Glück is the first female poet to be awarded the prize since Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish writer, in 1996. Other poets to have received the award include Seamus Heaney, the Northern Irish poet, who won in 1995. She is the first American to win since Bob Dylan in 2016.
She will give her Nobel lecture in the United States because of coronavirus travel restrictions, said Mats Malm, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize.
Many in the book world celebrated the academy’s selection of Glück as a worthy choice made based on purely literary merits. It marks a much-needed reset for the academy and for the literature award, which has been plagued by controversies and scandals in recent years.
Last year, the academy was criticized after it awarded the prize to Peter Handke, an Austrian author and playwright who has been accused of genocide denial for questioning events during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s — including the Srebrenica massacre, in which about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered.
That furor over the award came a year after the academy postponed the 2018 prize because of a scandal involving the husband of an academy member who was accused of sexual misconduct and of leaking information to bookmakers. That man, Jean-Claude Arnault, was later sentenced to two years in prison for rape.
Those events were a low point for the prize, which dates to 1901 and has been awarded to some of the world’s most influential and revered novelists, poets and playwrights. Prominent past laureates include Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Alice Munro, Gabriel García Márquez, Saul Bellow and Albert Camus. In 1964, the academy chose Jean-Paul Sartre, who refused the honor, saying that writers should not accept awards.
Given the recent controversies, many observers expected this year’s award to go to an uncontroversial choice. “The Swedish Academy knows they can’t afford another scandal,” Bjorn Wiman, the culture editor of the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, said in a telephone interview before the announcement.