Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Sweden’s most famous living poet, Tomas Tranströmer, won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Oct.

Tomas Tranströmer

REUTERS/Scanpix Sweden
Tomas Tranströmer at his home in Stockholm

On Oct. 6, Sweden’s most famous living poet, Tomas Tranströmer, won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature, marking the first time in more than 30 years the award has gone to a native of the Nordic country. 

Tranströmer’s surrealistic works exploring issues of fragmentation, isolation, and the mysteries of the human mind won Tranströmer acclaim as one of the most influential Scandinavian writers since World War II.

His poetry has particularly been noted for its accessibility — its powerful imagery and concrete, clear, expressive metaphors.

The 80-year-old psychologist and poet has been nominated for the Nobel Prize every single year since 1993 and has long been a perennial frontrunner to win.  

Article continues after advertisement

The Swedish Academy, which awards the prize of 10 million crowns ($1.45 million), stated Tranströmer won “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.”

During his prolific career, Tranströmer has published more than 15 volumes of poetry, most recently “Den stora gatan” (“The Great Enigma”) in 2004.

One of the world’s most translated poets, his books have appeared in numerous editions in over 60 languages.

Among other honors, Tranströmer has been the recipient of the Lifetime Recognition Award from the prestigious Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, the Petrarch Prize, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Bellman Prize, the Bonnier Award for Poetry, the Aftonbladets Literary Prize, the August Prize, the International Poetry Forum’s Swedish Award, the Oevralids Prize, the Griffin Prize and the Swedish Academy’s Nordic Prize.

English translations

"The Sorrow Gondola" by Tomas Tranströmer

For readers looking to get acquainted with Tranströmer’s work, his most recent U.S. release is a bilingual edition of “The Sorrow Gondola” (“Sorgegondolen”), translated by Michael McGriff and Mikaela Grassl (Green Integer Books, 2010).

Originally published in Swedish in 1996, “Sorgegondolen” was the first collection Tranströmer completed after the debilitating stroke he suffered in 1990, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak.

Since its publication, the book has sold over 30,000 copies in Sweden alone.

To read selections from Tranströmer’s “New Collected Poems,” translated by Robin Fulton (Bloodaxe Books, 1997), visit Tomas Tranströmer – Poetry.

To view a complete list of Tranströmer’s works, visit Nobel Prize in Literature 2011: Biobibliographical Notes.