Winner of the £942,000 prize (largest in the world of books), Transtromer has again brought Sweden to literary limelight as the last Swede to win the literature Nobel was in 1974, when Swedish authors Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson took the prize jointly.
Born on April 15, 1931 in Stockholm, Tomas Gösta Tranströmer was raised alone by his mother after she divorced his father- a journalist. He received a degree in psychology from Stockholm University and later divided his time between poetry and his work as a psychologist working with the disabled, convicts and drug addicts while, at the same time, producing a large body of poetic work.
Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Nobel committee said Transtromer’s work was chosen “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality” he also said and “you can never feel small after reading the poetry of Tomas Tranströmer – he’s also exquisite when it comes to language”.
In Sweden he has been called a ‘buzzard poet’ because his haunting, visionary poetry shows the world from a height, in a mystic dimension, but brings every detail of the natural world into sharp focus. His poems are often explorations of the borderland between sleep and waking, between the conscious and unconscious states. Transtromer’s most famous works include the 1966 “Windows and Stones,” in which he depicts themes from his many travels and “Baltics” from 1974.
His works have been translated into more than 50 languages and influenced poets around the globe, particularly in North America. More
Below is an excerpt of his work The Half-Finished Heaven (Culled from Graywolf Press)
The man on a walk suddenly meets the old
giant oak like an elk turned to stone with
its enormous antlers against the dark green castle wall
of the fall ocean.
Storm from the north. It’s nearly time for the
rowanberries to ripen. Awake in the night he
hears the constellations far above the oak
stamping in their stalls.
The Half-Finished Heaven
Cowardice breaks off on its path.
Anguish breaks off on its path.
The vulture breaks off in its flight.
The eager light runs into the open,
even the ghosts take a drink.
And our paintings see the air,
red beasts of the ice-age studios.
Everything starts to look around.
We go out in the sun by hundreds.
Every person is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.
The endless field under us.
Water glitters between the trees.
The lake is a window into the earth.
There is a stretch of water, a city on each side
one of them utterly dark, where enemies live.
Lamps are burning in the other.
The well-lit shore hypnotizes the dark shore.
I swim out in a trance
on the glittering dark water.
A steady note of a tuba comes in.
It’s a friend’s voice: “Take up your grave and walk.”