Tomas Tranströmer, Nobel Prize in Literature, 2011

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Tomas Tranströmer

Birthdate: (83)
Birthplace: Sverige
Death: March 26, 2015 (83)
Immediate Family:

Son of Gösta Tranströmer and Helmy Westerberg

Occupation: Writer, poet and translator
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Tomas Tranströmer, Nobel Prize in Literature, 2011

Tomas Gösta Tranströmer (born 15 April 1931) is a Swedish writer, poet and translator, whose poetry has been translated into over 60 languages. Tranströmer is acclaimed as one of the most important Scandinavian writers since the Second World War. Critics have praised Tranströmer’s poems for their accessibility, even in translation; his poems capture the long Swedish winters, the rhythm of the seasons and the palpable, atmospheric beauty of nature. Tranströmer's work is also characterized by a sense of mystery and wonder underlying the routine of everyday life, a quality which often gives his poems a religious dimension. Indeed, he has been described as a Christian poet. He was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.


Tranströmer was born in Stockholm in 1931 and raised by his mother, a schoolteacher, following her divorce from his father. He received his secondary education at the Södra Latin School in Stockholm, where he began writing poetry. In addition to selected journal publications, his first collection of poems, 17 dikter (Seventeen Poems) was published in 1954. He continued his education at Stockholm University, graduating as a psychologist in 1956 with additional studies history, religion, and literature. Between 1960 and 1966, Tranströmer split his time between working as a psychologist at the Roxtuna center for juvenile offenders and writing poetry.

During the 1950s, Tranströmer became close friends with poet Robert Bly. The two corresponded frequently, and Bly would translate Tranströmer's poems into English. Bonniers, Tranströmer's publisher, released Air Mail, a work consisting of Tranströmer and Bly's mail, in 2001. The Syrian poet Adunis helped spread Tranströmer's fame in the Arab world, accompanying him on readings.

Tranströmer went to Bhopal immediately after the gas tragedy in 1984, and alongside Indian poets such as K. Satchidanandan, took part in a poetry reading session outside.

Tranströmer suffered a stroke in 1990 that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak; however, he would continue to write and publish poetry through the early 2000s. His last original work, The Great Enigma, was published in 2004.

In addition to his writing, Tranströmer is also a piano player, something he has been able to continue after his stroke, albeit with one hand.


Tranströmer is considered to be one of the "most influential Scandinavian poet[s] of recent decades". Tranströmer has published 15 collected works over his career, which has been translated into over 60 languages. An English translation by Robin Fulton of his entire body of work, New Collected Poems, was published in the UK in 1987 and expanded in 1997. Following the publication of Den stora gåtan (The Great Enigma), Fulton's edition was further expanded into The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, published in the US in 2006 and as an updated edition of New Collected Poems in the UK in 2011. He published a short autobiography, Minnena ser mig (The Memories see me), in 1993.

In the 1970's, other poets accused Tranströmer of being detached from his own age, since he did not deal overtly with social and political issues in his poems and novels. His work, though, lies within and further develops the Modernist and Expressionist/Surrealist language of 20th century poetry; his clear, seemingly simple pictures from everyday life and nature in particular reveals a mystic insight to the universal aspects of the human mind. A poem of his was read at Anna Lindh's memorial service in 2003.

Tranströmer's awards include the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Övralid Prize, the Petrarca-Preis in Germany, the Golden Wreath of the Struga Poetry Evenings and the Swedish Award from International Poetry Forum. In 2007, Tranströmer received a special Lifetime Recognition Award given by the trustees of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, which also awards the annual Griffin Poetry Prize.

Nobel Prize in Literature, 2011

Tranströmer has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2011. He is the 108th winner of the award and the first Swede to win since 1974. Tranströmer had been considered a perennial frontrunner for the award in years past, with reporters waiting near his residence on the day of the announcement in years prior. It was also revealed that he had been nominated every single year since 1993. His wife Monica said he had been notified by phone four minutes before the announcement was made. The Nobel Committee stated that Tranströmer's work received the prize “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality."

Permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund said, "He's been writing poetry since 1951 when he made his debut. And has quite a small production, really. He's writing about big questions. He's writing about death, he's writing about history and memory, and nature." The prize announcement led to the immediate reissuing of at least two volumes of Tranströmer's poetry.

Selected awards and honours

   *1966: Bellmanpriset (Bellmanpriset) (Sweden),
   *1981: Petrarca-Preis (Germany),
   *1990: Neustadt International Prize for Literature (US),
   *1991: Nordic Prize of the Swedish Academy (Svenska Akademiens nordiska pris) (Sweden),
   *1992: Horst Bienek Prize for Poetry (Horst-Bienek-Preis für Lyrik) (Germany),
   *1996: Augustpriset, for Sorgegondolen (Sweden),
   *2003: Struga Poetry Evenings Golden Wreath (Macedonia),
   *2007: The Griffin Trust, Lifetime Recognition Award (Griffin Poetry Prize) (Canada),
   *2011: Title of Professor (Swedish: Professors namn), granted by the Cabinet of Sweden (Sweden),
   *2011: Nobel Prize for Literature (Sweden)

Swedish collections

   *17 dikter (17 Poems) 1954; Bonniers, 1965,
   *Hemligheter på vägen (Secrets on the Way), Bonnier, 1958,
   *Den halvfärdiga himlen (The Half-Finished Heaven), Bonnier, 1962,
   *Klanger och spår (Windows and Stones), Bonnier, 1966,
   *Mörkerseende (Night Vision), Författarförlaget, 1970,
   *Stigar (Paths), Författarförlaget, 1973, ISBN 9789170541100,
   *Östersjöar (Baltics), Bonnier, 1974,
   *Sanningsbarriären (The Truth Barrier), Bonnier, 1978, ISBN 9789100436841,
   *Det vilda torget (The Wild Square) Bonnier, 1983, ISBN 9789100460488,
   *För levande och döda (For the Living and the Dead), Bonnier, 1989,
   *Sorgegondolen (The Sorrow Gondola), Bonnier, 1996, ISBN 9789100562328,
   *Den stora gåtan (The Big Riddle), Bonnier, 2004, ISBN 9789100103101,
   *Galleriet: Reflected in Vecka nr.II (2007) – an artist book by Modhir Ahmed

Selected books in English translation

   *Twenty Poems tr. Robert Bly (Seventies Press, 1970),
   *Windows and Stones tr. May Swenson & Leif Sjoberg, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972, ISBN 9780822932413,
   *Baltics tr. Samuel Charters, Oyez, Berkeley, 1975; Oasis Books, 1980, ISBN 9780903375511,
   *Selected Poems, translator Robin Fulton, Ardis Publishers, 1981, ISBN 9780882334622,
   *Collected Poems, Translator Robin Fulton, Bloodaxe Books, 1987, ISBN 9781852240233,
   *Tomas Tranströmer: Selected Poems, 1954–1986, Editor Robert Hass, Publisher Ecco Press, 1987 ISBN 9780880011136,
   *Sorrow Gondola: Sorgegondolen tr. Robin Fulton, Dufour Editions, 1994, ISBN 9781873790489; Dufour Editions, Incorporated, 1997, ISBN 9780802390707,
   *New Collected Poems tr. Robin Fulton, Bloodaxe Books, 1997, ISBN 9781852244132,
   *Selected Poems Transtromer, Translator May Swenson, Eric Sellin, HarperCollins, 1999, ISBN 9780880014038,
   *The Half-Finished Heaven tr. Robert Bly, Graywolf Press, 2001, ISBN 9781555973513,
   *The Deleted World tr. Robin Robertson, Enitharmon Press, 2006, ISBN 9781904634485; Enitharmon Press, 2006, ISBN 9781904634515,
   *The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems. Translator Robin Fulton. New Directions. 2006. ISBN 9780811216722,
   *The Sorrow Gondola tr. Michael McGriff and Mikaela Grassl, Green Integer, 2010, ISBN 9781933382449,
   *The Deleted World tr. Robin Robertson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011,
   *New Collected Poems tr. Robin Fulton, expanded edition Bloodaxe Books, 2011, ISBN 9781852244132
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Tomas Tranströmer, Nobel Prize in Literature, 2011's Timeline

April 15, 1931
March 26, 2015
Age 83