Telephone interview, October 2020
“It’s too new … it’s too early here”
Telephone interview with Louise Glück immediately following the announcement of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature on 8 October 2020. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media.
“My first thought was ‘I won’t have any friends,’ because most of my friends are writers”, says Louise Glück, having just heard the news that she had been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature. “But mostly,” she continues, “I’m concerned with the preservation of daily life, with people I love.” Longing for an early morning cup of coffee, she spoke briefly from her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She suggests new readers start with any of her works “because they’re very different, one from another.” But not her first book, she says, “Unless they want to feel contempt!”
Louise Glück: Hello?
Adam Smith: Good morning, my name is Adam Smith, calling from Nobelprize.org, am I speaking with Louise Glück?
LG: Yes, but are we being recorded because I really can’t do this.
AS: I promise it won’t be anything onerous. Would you mind if we recorded just two or three minutes?
LG: I don’t mind, but I really have to have some coffee and something right now … two minutes.
AS: You’re very kind. Thank you very much indeed. In that two minutes could I ask you what the award of the Nobel Prize means to you?
LG: I have no idea. My first thought was ‘I won’t have any friends’ because most of my friends are writers. But then I thought ‘no, that won’t happen’. It’s too new, you know … I don’t know really what it means. And I don’t know whether … I mean it’s a great honour, and then of course there are recipients I don’t admire, but then I think of the ones that I do, and some very recent. I think, practically, I wanted to buy another house, a house in Vermont – I have a condo in Cambridge – and I thought ‘well, I can buy a house now’. But mostly I am concerned for the preservation of daily life with people I love.
AS: It can be an intrusion, all this attention.
LG: It’s disruptive, the phone ringing all the time. It’s ringing now, squeaking into my ear.
AS: I fully understand, yes. For those who are unfamiliar with your work …
AS: …would you recommend a place for them to start, something that’s most characteristic perhaps?
LG: There isn’t, because the books are very different, one from another. I would suggest that they not read my first book unless they want to feel contempt, but everything after that I think [is of some] interest. I like my recent work. I would say ‘Averno’ would be a place to start, or my last book ‘Faithful and Virtuous Night’.
AS: There’s so much focus at the moment on the value of lived experience, it comes up all the time. How important do you think lived experience is to be able to talk about events?
LG: Oh heavens. That’s too big, and it’s too early here – it’s barely seven o’clock. I’m sure there are things to say, and I’m sure I would have ideas. But…
AS: But it’s so much a feature of your own writing that I wondered whether you would, but we could talk about it another time.
LG: Is the two minutes over?
AS: It is, yes, you’ve suffered enough. I’m sorry. Thank you and congratulations again.
LG: Thank you.
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