The Swedish academy awarded their fellow countryman, poet Tomas Tranströmer, the 2011 Noble Prize for Literature. Tranströmer was chosen because, according to the Nobel judges ‘through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality’. His poetic output has been acclaimed as amongst the most influential of the latter half of the Twentieth century and he is revered as a national icon in Sweden. He is also considered one of the most accessible poets to emerge from Scandinavia and has been compared to such luminaries as Seamus Heaney, both in terms of his cultural importance and the broad appeal of his poetry.
His most successful work draws on both the desolate beauty of the Swedish landscape and the modernist and surrealist traditions of Northern Europe, which he expands upon. New Collected Poems is a compilation of his more recent work; translated by Robin Fulton, it includes such works as ‘After Someone’s Death’ and ‘Codex’. Another collection by Tranströmer, The Deleted World, is also translated by Fulton.
Tranströmer is the first Swede to win the Nobel Prize for literature since Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson shared the prize in 1974. Their win was mired in controversy and accusations of favouritism, especially since they were both members of the Nobel panel at the time. The decision to award Tranströmer the prize has also been questioned in some circles. However the chairman of the Nobel panel defended the choice by citing Tranströmer’s global popularity, evidenced by the fact that his work has been translated into more than 50 languages, and his cultural importance, which stretches far beyond Scandinavia.
By Thomas Storey