Tomas Tranströmer Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

Three posts in one day! It’s unprecedented, but what can I say–there’s just a lot going on. Not the least of which is this morning’s announcement of 2011’s Nobel Prize winner, the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time a Swede has been awarded the prize since 1974, when the prize was co-awarded to Swedish authors Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson. Additionally, there doesn’t seem to have been a poet awarded since 1996, when Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska was the recipient. So, all due credit to Tranströmer: this is a relatively big shift for the Nobel.

To the credit of a poetry-loving friend of mine, I have actually read some of Tranströmer, which is a nice change from recent years when I hadn’t previously read any of the recipient’s work. (Although in the case of Le Clézio, well, that was less my ‘fault’: almost none of his work had been translated into English before he won.) I’m not familiar enough with Tranströmer’s work to write a good introduction to it, nor am I really a good enough reader of poetry to attempt that. But I will say that of the poems of his I have read, I enjoyed the crispness of the writing, as well as the imagery. I remember taking note of his interesting line breaks, as well, for whatever that’s worth.

No need to fear, though, there are plenty of better-qualified people writing on Tranströmer today! Below are some articles I’ve gathered on the author–whose work, I might add, is readily available in English. Additionally, I’ve included the text of one of his poems which I have enjoyed, entitled “The Couple.”

Happy Reading!


THE COUPLE (via The Owls blog)

They turn the light off, and its white globe glows
an instant and then dissolves, like a tablet
in a glass of darkness. Then a rising.
The hotel walls shoot up into heaven’s darkness.

Their movements have grown softer, and they sleep,
but their most secret thoughts begin to meet
like two colors that meet and run together
on the wet paper in a schoolboy’s painting.

It is dark and silent. The city however has come nearer
tonight. With its windows turned off. Houses have come.
They stand packed and waiting very near,
a mob of people with blank faces.


The Nobel Prize for Literature’s official page on Tranströmer

Mark Asch at The L Magazine woke up early to post his announcement of Tranströmer’s win, and also includes a representative poem of the author’s, “The Indoors is Endless,” which I think is a fantastic title.

Tom Sleigh at posted an introduction to Tranströmer’s work, “Too Much of the Air.”

Two poems of Tranströmer’s available on “After a Death” and “Outskirts.”

The Poetry Foundation has three poems here.


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