Tomas Transtromer (April 15, 1931 - March 26, 2015)
Born: 15th April, 1931
Died: 26th March, 2015
Nationality: Swedish
Profession/Occupation: Writer
Region: Stockholm, Sweden
Notable works: "Hemligheter pa vagen", "Klanger och spar", "17 dikter"

Tomas Transtromer Facts


Tomas Transtromer, (born April 15, 1931, Stockholm, Sweden--died March 26, 2015, Stockholm), Swedish lyrical poet noted for his spare but resonant language, particularly his unusual metaphors--more transformative than substitutive--which have been associated with a literary surrealism. His verse was at once revelatory and mysterious. Transtromer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2011.

Transtromer was brought up by his divorced mother, who was a teacher, and her extended family. As a young man, he performed the then-obligatory service in the Swedish military. After earning a degree from Stockholm University College (now Stockholm University) in 1956, he made his living as a psychologist and social worker.

Transtromer's first collection of poetry, 17 dikter (1954; "Seventeen Poems"), showed the influence of Modernism in its spare language and startling imagery, and it met with critical acclaim. His next volumes, Hemligheter pa vagen (1958; "Secrets Along the Way"), Den halvfardiga himlen (1962; "The Half-Finished Heaven"), and Klanger och spar (1966; "Resonances and Tracks"), are composed in a more-personal style, with plainer diction and personal perspective more in evidence. In those and later books, Transtromer's poetic observations of nature combine richness of meaning with the utmost simplicity of style. As one critic put it: "Transtromer's poems are acoustically perfect chambers in which all of these contradictory vibrations can be heard without straining." During the mid-1960s, however, Transtromer began to fall out of favour with a new generation of poets and some critics who accused him of a lack of political commitment. Also in the 1960s he established a correspondence and friendship with the American poet Robert Bly, who translated many of Transtromer's poems into English.

Bly's first translation of an entire book by Transtromer was Morkerseende (1970; "Seeing in the Dark"; Eng. trans. Night Vision), written during a difficult time for the Swedish poet. Transtromer's next volume, Stigar (1973; "Paths"), included translations into Swedish of some of Bly's work. The Baltic coast, which captured Transtromer's imagination as a boy, is the setting for Ostersjoar (1974; Baltics). His later works include Sanningsbarriaren (1978; The Truth Barrier), Det vilda torget (1983; The Wild Marketplace), and For levande och doda (1989; For the Living and the Dead).

In 1990 Transtromer was awarded the Neustadt Prize for literature. That same year he had a stroke that robbed him almost entirely of the ability to speak. Nevertheless, he published a memoir, Minnena ser mig (1993; "Memories Look at Me"), and two more books of verse: Sorgegondolen (1996; Sorrow Gondola), inspired by Franz Liszt's La lugubre gondola, and Den stora gatan (2004; The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems). A volume of Transtromer's collected work, Dikter och prosa 1954-2004 ("Poetry and Prose 1954-2004"), was issued in 2011. Air Mail (2001; Airmail) collected his correspondence with Bly between 1964 and 1990.

Transtromer's direct language and powerful images made him the most widely translated Scandinavian poet in the English-speaking world in the later 20th century. Bly's collections of Transtromer include Friends, You Drank Some Darkness: Three Swedish Poets, Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelof, and Tomas Transtromer (1975), Tomas Transtromer: Selected Poems 1954-1986 (1987; with other translators), and The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Transtromer (2001). Transtromer's poetry was translated into many other languages as well.

Top 9 Tomas Transtromer quotes

A person shows himself for an instant as in a photograph but clearer and in the background something which is bigger than his shadow.
A ship's engine far away on the water expands the summer-night horizon. Both joy and sorrow swell in the dew's magnifying glass. Without really knowing, we divine; our life has a sister ship, following quietly another route. While the sun blazes behind the islands.
Far away
Every abstract picture of the world is as impossible as a blueprint of a storm. Don't be ashamed because you're human: be proud! Inside you, vaults behind vaults open endlessly. You will never be finished, and that's as it should be.
I am still the place where creation does some work on itself.
I am
I walk slowly into myself, through a forest of empty suits of armor.
It's always so early in here, before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. Thank you for this life! Still I miss the alternatives. The sketches, all of them, want to become real.
Society's dark hull drifts further and further away. It is this place - the place of our separation, our distinction - that much of his poetry occupies.
Sometimes my life opened its eyes in the dark. A feeling as if crowds drew through the streets in blindness and anxiety on the way towards a miracle, while I invisibly remain standing.
My life
The language marches in step with the executioners. Therefore we must get a new language.

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