Today at 1PM, the Swedish Academy announced the name of this year’s literature laureate–and no, it wasn’t Bob Dylan. It was, in fact, Sweden’s very own Tomas Tranströmer. Their summation for why he was a worthy recipient? In their own words:
The Nobel Prize in Literature 2011 was awarded to Tomas Tranströmer“because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”.
I am no expert on Tomas Tranströmer or his work. I had never heard of him until I moved to Sweden in 1995. I was first exposed to his writing when I was studying Swedish at ABF. My Swedish teacher thought that reading poetry would give us a better understanding of the melody of the Swedish language. I don’t know if it helped me. My Swedish pronunciation is still sketchy. However, I was happy to discover a new writer whose work I could admire.
One of the first poems I ever read by him was “After a Death”:
Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet’s tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.
One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold.
It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armor of black dragon scales.
(translated by Robert Bly)