Sweden’s most famous living poet, Tomas Transtromer, won the Nobel prize for literature on Thursday, the first time in more than 30 years the award has gone to a native of the Nordic country.
The Swedish Academy, which awards the prize of 10 million crowns (Rs 7 crore), said the poet won “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”.
Transtromer, 80, has been an almost constant tip to win literature’s most prestigious award in recent years. The prize last went to Sweden in 1974. Peter Englund, permanent secretary at the Swedish Academy, said the poet had taken the news in his stride.
“I think he was surprised, astonished,” Englund told Swedish television. “He sat relaxing and listening to music. But he said it was very good.” Transtromer’s works are characterised by “economy, correctness and poignant metaphors”, the academy added.
A trained psychologist, Transtromer suggests the poetic examination of nature offers insights into human identity and its spiritual dimension, which often enters metaphysical territory.
“A human being’s existence does not end where the fingers end,” one Swedish critic said of Transtromer’s poems, which have been described as “secular prayers”. Transtromer’s reputation in the English-speaking world owes much to his friendship with American poet Robert Bly, who has translated much of the Swede’s work into English, one of 50 languages in which his poems have appeared.
The prize was the fourth of this year’s Nobel prizes, following awards for medicine on Monday, physics on Tuesday and chemistry on Wednesday.