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Tomas Tranströmer

Tomas Gösta Tranströmer (Swedish: [ˈtumas ˈjœsta ˈtraːnˌstrømər]; 15 April 1931 – 26 March 2015) was a Swedish poet, psychologist and translator. His poems captured the long Swedish winters, the rhythm of the seasons and the palpable, atmospheric beauty of nature. Tranströmer's work is also characterized by a sense of mystery and wonder underlying the routine of everyday life, a quality which often gives his poems a religious dimension. He has been described as a Christian poet.

Tranströmer is acclaimed as one of the most important Scandinavian writers since the Second World War. Critics praised his poetry for its accessibility, even in translation. His poetry has been translated into over 60 languages. He was the recipient of the 1990 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Life and work

Early life

Tranströmer was born in Stockholm in 1931 and raised by his mother, a schoolteacher, following her divorce from his father. He received his secondary education at the Södra Latin Gymnasium in Stockholm, where he began writing poetry. In addition to selected journal publications, his first collection of poems, 17 Poems, was published in 1954. He continued his education at Stockholm University, graduating as a psychologist in 1956 with additional studies in history, religion and literature. Between 1960 and 1966, Tranströmer split his time between working as a psychologist at the Roxtuna center for juvenile offenders and writing poetry.

Poetry

Tranströmer is considered to be one of the "most influential Scandinavian poet[s] of recent decades". Tranströmer published 15 collected works over his extensive career, which have been translated into over 60 languages. An English translation by Robin Fulton of his entire body of work, New Collected Poems, was published in the UK in 1987 and expanded in 1997. Following the publication of The Great Enigma, Fulton's edition was further expanded into The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, published in the US in 2006 and as an updated edition of New Collected Poems in the UK in 2011. He published a short autobiography, Minnena ser mig (The Memories see me), in 1993.

By the mid-1960s, Tranströmer became close friends with poet Robert Bly. The two corresponded frequently, and Bly would translate Tranströmer's poems into English. In 2001 Bonniers, Tranströmer's publisher, released Air Mail, a work consisting of Tranströmer's and Bly's day-to-day correspondence on personal, contemporary and literary matters c. 1965–1991 – in a style that vividly conveyed how close friends the two had soon become. Bly also helped arrange readings for his fellow poet in America. The Syrian poet Adunis helped spread Tranströmer's fame in the Arab world, accompanying him on reading tours.

In the 1970s, other poets accused Tranströmer of being detached from his own age, since he did not deal overtly with social and political issues in his poems and novels. His work, though, lies within and further develops the Modernist and Expressionist/Surrealist language of 20th-century poetry; his clear, seemingly simple pictures from everyday life and nature in particular reveals a mystic insight to the universal aspects of the human mind. A poem of his was read at Anna Lindh's memorial service in 2003.

Tranströmer went to Bhopal immediately after the gas tragedy in 1984, and alongside Indian poets such as K. Satchidanandan, took part in a poetry reading session outside the plant.

Tranströmer suffered a stroke in 1990 that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak; however, he continued to write and publish poetry through the early 2000s. One of his final original volumes of poetry, Den stora gåtan, was published in 2004, translated into English in 2006 as The Great Enigma.

Music

Tranströmer played the piano throughout his life; after his stroke, which paralyzed the right side of his body, he taught himself to play only with his left hand. He often said that the playing was a way for him to continue living after the stroke.

Tranströmer's daughter is a concert singer. In 2011 she released the album Dagsmeja, containing songs based on Tranströmer's poems.

Many composers and musicians have worked with his poems. Among these are Jan Garbarek, Torbjörn Nilsson, Maurice Karkoff, Lennart Hedwall, Håkan Parkman, Fredrik Jakobsson, Gustav Alexandrie, Ulf Grahn, Stig Gustav Schönberg, Madeleine Isaksson, Per Gunnar Petersson, Margareta Hallin, Lars Edlund, Sven-David Sandström, Johan-Magnus Sjöberg, Jan Sandström, Andrea Tarrodi, Maria Löfberg, Anders Eliasson and Bo Hansson.

Death

Tranströmer died in Stockholm on 26 March 2015 at 83, less than 3 weeks before his 84th birthday.

List of works

Books of poetry
  • 17 Poems (17 dikter), Bonniers, 1954
  • Secrets on the Way (Hemligheter på vägen), Bonnier, 1958
  • The Half-Finished Heaven (Den halvfärdiga himlen), Bonnier, 1962
  • Bells and Tracks (Klanger och spår), Bonnier, 1966
  • Seeing in the Dark (Mörkerseende), Författarförlaget, 1970
  • Paths (Stigar), Författarförlaget, 1973, ISBN 978-91-7054-110-0
  • Baltics (Östersjöar), Bonnier, 1974
  • The Truthbarrier (Sanningsbarriären), Bonnier, 1978, ISBN 978-91-0-043684-1
  • The Wild Market Square (Det vilda torget) Bonnier, 1983, ISBN 978-91-0-046048-8
  • For the Living and the Dead (För levande och döda), Bonnier, 1989
  • The Sorrow Gondola (Sorgegondolen), Bonnier, 1996, ISBN 978-91-0-056232-8
  • Prison (Fängelse), Edition Edda, 2001 (from 1959), ISBN 978-91-89352-10-0
  • The Great Enigma (Den stora gåtan), Bonnier, 2004, ISBN 978-91-0-010310-1
Other
  • Memories Look at Me (Minnena ser mig), Bonnier, 1993, prose memoir ISBN 978-91-0-055716-4
  • Air Mail: Brev 1964-1990, Bonnier, 2001, correspondence with Robert Bly ISBN 978-91-0-057384-3
  • Galleriet: Reflected in Vecka nr.II (2007), an artist book by Modhir Ahmed

Translations of his work

in English
  • Twenty Poems tr. Robert Bly, Seventies Press, 1970
  • Night Vision: Mörkerseende tr. Robert Bly, London Magazine Editions, 1972, SBN 900626 74 7
  • Windows and Stones tr. May Swenson & Leif Sjoberg, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972; ISBN 978-0-8229-3241-3
  • Selected Poems, Tomas Tranströmer, tr. Robin Fulton, (included with Paavo Haavikko), Penguin Modern European Poets, 1974; ISBN 978-0140421576
  • Baltics: Östersjöar, tr. Samuel Charters, Oyez, Berkeley, 1975 ISBN 978-0-903375-51-1; new edition Tavern Books 2012, ISBN 978-1-935635-14-7
  • Baltics: Östersjöar, tr. Robin Fulton, Oasis Books, London, 1980; ISBN 0-903375-51-6
  • Selected Poems, translator Robin Fulton, Ardis Publishers, 1981, ISBN 978-0-88233-462-2
  • The Wild Market Square: Det vilda torget tr. John F. Deane, Dedalus Press, Dublin, 1985; ISBN 0-948268-05-0
  • Collected Poems, Translator Robin Fulton, Bloodaxe Books, 1987, ISBN 978-1-85224-023-3
  • Tomas Tranströmer: Selected Poems, 1954–1986, Editor Robert Hass, Publisher Ecco Press, 1987 ISBN 978-0-88001-113-6
  • Sorrow Gondola: Sorgegondolen, tr. Robin Fulton, Dufour Editions, 1994, ISBN 978-1-873790-48-9; Dufour Editions, Incorporated, 1997, ISBN 978-0-8023-9070-7
  • For the Living and the Dead: För levande och döda, tr. John F. Deane; The Dedalus Press, Dublin, 1994; ISBN 1-873790-48-1
  • New Collected Poems tr. Robin Fulton, Bloodaxe Books, 1997, ISBN 978-1-85224-413-2
  • Selected Poems Transtromer, Translator May Swenson, Eric Sellin, HarperCollins, 1999, ISBN 978-0-88001-403-8
  • The Half-Finished Heaven tr. Robert Bly, Graywolf Press, 2001, ISBN 978-1-55597-351-3
  • The Deleted World tr. Robin Robertson, Enitharmon Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1-904634-48-5; Enitharmon Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1-904634-51-5
  • The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems. Translator Robin Fulton. New Directions. 2006. ISBN 978-0-8112-1672-2. ; republished 2011
  • The Sorrow Gondola tr. Michael McGriff and Mikaela Grassl, Green Integer, 2010, ISBN 978-1-933382-44-9
  • The Deleted World tr. Robin Robertson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux USA, Enitharmon Press UK, 2011; ISBN 978-0374533533
  • New Collected Poems tr. Robin Fulton, expanded edition Bloodaxe Books, 2011, ISBN 978-1-85224-413-2
  • Inspired Notes, tr. John F. Deane, Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2011 (combining his 1985 and 1994 translations above); ISBN 978-1906614539
  • Bright Scythe: Selected Poems by Tomas Tranströmer, tr. Patty Crane, Bilingual edition, Sarabande Books, 2015; ISBN 978-1941411216
in other languages
  • Hanns Grössel has translated several works of Tranströmer into German.
  • Roberto Mascaró has translated Tranströmer's work into Spanish.
  • Morteza Saghafian has translated Tranströmer's work into Persian.
  • Maria Cristina Lombardi translated some works of Tranströmer into Italian.
  • Jacques Outin translated them into French.

Awards and honours

  • 1966: Bellmanpriset (Bellmanpriset) (Sweden)
  • 1981: Petrarca-Preis (Germany)
  • 1990: Neustadt International Prize for Literature (US)
  • 1990: Nordic Council Literature Prize, for For the Living and the Dead (Nordic countries)
  • 1991: Swedish Academy Nordic Prize (Sweden)
  • 1992: Horst Bienek Prize for Poetry (Horst-Bienek-Preis für Lyrik) (Germany)
  • 1996: Augustpriset, for Sorgegondolen (Sweden)
  • 1998: Jan Smrek Prize (Slovakia)
  • 2003: Struga Poetry Evenings Golden Wreath (Macedonia)
  • 2007: The Griffin Trust, Lifetime Recognition Award (Griffin Poetry Prize) (Canada)
  • 2011: Title of Professor (Swedish: Professors namn), granted by the Cabinet of Sweden (Sweden)
  • 2011: Nobel Prize for Literature (Sweden)

Other awards include the Övralid Prize, the Petrarca-Preis in Germany and the Swedish Award from International Poetry Forum.

Nobel Prize in Literature, 2011

Tranströmer was announced as the recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was the 108th winner of the award and the first Swede to win since 1974. Tranströmer had been considered a perennial frontrunner for the award in years past, with reporters waiting near his residence on the day of the announcement in prior years. The Swedish Academy revealed that he had been nominated every single year since 1993.

Tranströmer's wife, Monica, said he had been notified by telephone four minutes before the announcement was made. The Nobel Committee stated that Tranströmer's work received the prize “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality."

Permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund said, "He's been writing poetry since 1951 when he made his debut. And has quite a small production, really. He's writing about big questions. He's writing about death, he's writing about history and memory, and nature." Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt said he was ”happy and proud” at the news of Tranströmer's achievement. Meanwhile, international response to the award has been mixed. The prize announcement led to the immediate reissuing of at least two volumes of Tranströmer's poetry.

See also

  • List of Nobel laureates in Literature

References

External links

  • Official website
  • Petri Liukkonen. "Tomas Tranströmer". Books and Writers
  • Biography and Poems on Poets.org
  • Biographical profile on Bloodaxe Books website
  • Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition tribute, including audio and video clips
  • Sorrow Gondola translated by Patty Crane, with essay by David Wojahn, letter from Jean Valentine, and more in Blackbird, Spring 2011, Vol. 10, No. 1.
  • "Haiku by Tomas Tranströmer". Samizdat (3). Summer 1999.  Translations by Robert Archambeau and Lars-Håkan Svensson.
  • Poetry Fix video on Tranströmer
  • The Guardian: Tomas Tranströmer 'surprised' by Nobel prize for literature - video interview
  • "Wonderful Centipedes: The Poetry of Tomas Tranströmer", Niklas Schiöler, Berfrois, 12 October 2011
  • The Music Says Freedom Exists. A visit to Tomas Tranströmer in Stockholm, February 2015 Video by Louisiana Channel


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