None of the American literary heavyweights won it, and neither did an Arab writer, though many thought the prize committee would make a nod to the Arab Spring. Bob Dylan didn’t win it either, even though he somehow had the best odds the night before. Instead, the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature went to Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, who was recognized for the ways his “condensed, translucent images . . . giv[e] us fresh access to reality.”
Although he has never been widely read outside of his native Scandinavia, Tranströmer is one of Sweden’s most well-known and beloved literary lights and has had a long and prolific career. With several of his collections now translated into over fifty languages, his poems are best known as dreamlike reflections on the relationships between humanity and nature, language and experience, and spirituality and modern life. He has suggested that his poems are “meeting places,” and they indeed open up and stage new encounters between these themes, doing so with his signature alternation between plain language and intense metaphorical lyricism.
Following his victory,
• Poet Colin Cheney guides first-time readers where to start with Tranströmer’s large body of work.
• A lengthy interview with Tranströmer from 1989 is posted, in which he candidly offers readers insight into his writing process and the various inspirations and influences shaping it, bringing together everything from his mystical sensibility to a lifetime of work as a psychologist and a deep love of the Swedish landscape.