The Beauty Of Stillness

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Nobel Literature Winner Tomas Tranströmer

by John Freeman

October 6, 2011

Paula Tranströmer/AP

Tomas Tranströmer won the Nobel Prize for Literature October 6

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Like a glass-blower by a wintry sea, Tomas Tranströmer has been slowly and painstakingly making poems in his native Stockholm since the early 1950s. In his debut work, the modestly titled Seventeen Poems, published when Tranströmer was just 23, the Swedish poet imagined Thoreau in the woods, “disappearing deep in his inner greenness/artful and hopeful.”

A private man in his work and life, Tranströmer has been following Thoreau’s example for 50 years. He will have more difficulty doing that after today’s announcement that he is this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In truth, though, Tranströmer is far from obscure. Since the 1960s, when his work first began to appear in English — translated by Robert Bly, Robert Hass, May Swenson and others — he has been one of the most regularly translated European poets. On this, the morning of the prize, Tranströmer has already been translated into over 50 languages.

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