Tomas Tranströmer Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature

The Swedish Academy announced today that the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to eighty-year-old Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. In its press release -- itself an almost poetically compressed document -- the Academy said they chose Tranströmer "because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality." Helen Vendler illuminated his work in a 2009 essay in the New York Review of Books, saying: "He looks deep into the pool of the mind until an image looks back at him, and he holds it steady."


Many Americans will likely be as unfamiliar with Tranströmer's name and work as they have been with some recent Laureates (2009's honoree, the Romanian-born German novelist Herta Müller comes to mind), but that's not for lack of translation into English. For starters, there's Robin Fulton's translation of the poems in The Great Enigma, published by New Directions for U.S. readers in 2006.


Additionally, one of America's most well-known poets, Robert Bly, has translated Tranströmer's work in volumes including The Half-Finished Heaven (which earn's novelist Teju Cole's high praise -- see below) and as part of his marvelous book The Winged Energy of Delight: Selected Translations. (In fact, Bly and Tranströmer even published a volume of their correspondence, entitled Air Mail, in 2001.)


More is on the way -- as reported in the New York Times, Ecco has announced a new edition of Tranströmer's Selected Poems will appear soon, and an American edition of the collection The Deleted World, translated by Robin Robertson, is set to be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux before the end of the year.


This morning on Twitter, the Nigerian-American novelist Teju Cole has been celebrating Transtormer's poetry, and pointed out that a line from the Swedish writer's verse was one of the inspirations for the title of his highly praised recent novel Open City.


Want a taste of Tranströmer's verse? There are samples here and here, and The Literary Saloon has a nice roundup of resources and information.


-- Bill Tipper

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.