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Tomas Tranströmer wins the Nobel Prize for Literature!

October 14, 2011

Fans of Swedish poetry everywhere sighed with relief with the news that Tomas Tranströmer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature after so many years. Speaking on his behalf, his wife Monica said her husband was most happy that the prize was awarded for poetry. “That you happened to receive it is a great joy and happy surprise, but the fact the prize went to poetry felt very good.” Tranströmer has written more than 15 collections of poetry in his 80 years some of which have been translated into more than 60 other languages. Still Tranströmer is not as well known as he might be. John Freeman, the editor of the literary magazine Granta, describes him as the Robert Frost of Sweden. Indeed Tranströmer’s work captures the Swedish national character—its mood, sentiment, and values. Much of his poetry stems from his sense of place and his connection to the land. It is not hard to recognize that Tranströmer and Bergman, for example, share the same heritage.

Interestingly, in terms of the committee selection, Tranströmer is not politically oriented and his poems never approach the subjects presented by Göran Sonnevi whose work was the subject of a panel at IUB in 2010 (which can be watched here). Still, from a Swedish perspective, his selection can be seen as controversial just because he is Swedish. Those who admire Swedish poetry might remark that a Swedish poet happened to receive the award is a happy surprise and hope that this prize brings attention to the rich work of Swedish poets.

Two of favorites of his poems are “Morning Birds” and “The Station.”

Written by Dr. Lois R Wise, Director of West European Studies at Indiana University

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