• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Poetry and performance infuse Tranströmer's Nobel lecture

Charlotte West · 7 Dec 2011, 18:38

Published: 07 Dec 2011 18:38 GMT+01:00

Tranströmer is the first Swede in 40 years to win the Nobel literature prize.

Whereas many literature laureates prepare special lectures for the occasion, Tranströmer's lecture featured readings of 13 poems from throughout his career coordinated with musical accompaniment.

Tranströmer looked on as his work was set to music and sung by the Gustaf Sjöqvist's Chamber Choir and Uppsala Chamber Soloists, among other performers.

“Good poetry is a powerful thing. It can change our picture of the world, making it clearer, sharper, more comprehensible. And forever,” Englund said.

“We should not be taken in by the understated tone of Tomas Tranströmer’s poetry. Several of the real wonders of our existence are constantly present: Memory, History, Death, Nature – nature not least. But each not as an overwhelming exterior presence, nor as something that assumes life under our gaze. In your work it is the very opposite: ego, the individual, is the prism into which everything is drawn. It gives us a feeling of context, even obligation,” he continued.

“Dear Tomas, it is impossible to feel insignificant after having read your poetry. Neither is it still possible to love the world for the wrong reasons.”

“But what makes great poetry great is not only that it clarifies or reveals something already present in our world, but also that it has the ability to actually widen the boundaries of that world. Therein lies its power,” Englund said.

The first poem recited was “Minnena ser mig” (Memories Look at Me), originally published in 1983:

A June morning, too soon to wake,

too late to fall asleep again.

I must go out – the greenery is dense

with memories, they follow me with their gaze.

They can't be seen, they merge completely with

the background, true chameleons.

They are so close that I can hear them breathe

although the birdsong here is deafening.

Tranströmer began his serious writing career in 1954 when he published "17 dikter" (17 poems).

Predominant in the Swedish poet's work are themes of nature and music and he followed up "17 dikter" with several collections in the 1950s and 1960s, including: "Hemligheter på vägen" (1958; Secrets along the way), "Den halvfärdiga himlen" (1962; The Half-Finished Heaven, 2001) and "Klanger och spår" (1966; Windows & Stones : Selected Poems, 1972).

With "Windows & Stones: Selected Poems", published in English in 1972, he consolidated his standing among critics and other readers as one of the leading poets of his generation, according to his Swedish Academy biography.

A significant amount of his work has been translated into English and other languages including "The Sorrow Gondola" and "New Collected Poems", published in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

In an article on the challenges of translating Tranströmer into English, Robbin Robertson, who translated Tranströmer's forthcoming volume, "The Deleted World", wrote: “The supple rhythms of the original poems are hard to replicate and, equally, the plosive musicality of Swedish words like 'domkyrkoklocklang' lose all their aural resonance when they become a 'peal of cathedral bells.'”

After Tranströmer was announced as the Nobel literature winner at the beginning of October, his books flew off the shelves in the Anglophone world.

Story continues below…

The Observer reported that within a few days after the announcement, his book The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems was ranked number 12 on Amazon, a rarity for a poetry book.

Recent Nobel literature laureates include Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa (2010), Romanian-born German author Herta Müller (2009), French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio (2008), and British author Doris Lessing (2007).

Tranströmer is the first Swedish writer since Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, who shared the prize in 1974, to claim the Nobel.

The Literature Nobel has been awarded 104 times since 1901, with the exception of six years during WWI and WWII.

He will receive the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature on Saturday at the Stockholm Concert Hall.

A live webcast of the Nobel literature lecture was broadcast from the Swedish Academy. A video of the performance will be available on the Nobel Foundation website below, where the full text of the 13 poems in English and Swedish have also been published.

Charlotte West (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

18:57 December 9, 2011 by BritVik
Personally, poetry as such leaves me cold, having never got much beyond Lewis Carrols's 'You are old, father William, the young man said . . . learned at school back in 1947. To me, the Tranströmer poem quoted here could just as easily have been written as normal text, and been just as logical. So it is with much that is called poetry today, and clearly requires 'a literary mind' or something, to appreciate it. I just don't see it. Am I alone in that??
20:23 December 9, 2011 by canam
You're not "wrong". That's my biggest issue with poetry - it's so personal hence subjective, who can say what is "brilliant" or "rubbish"? One of my biggest pet peeves is bad poetry and those who actually label poetry "bad" ;)
Today's headlines
Malmö police catch car arson suspect in the act
Another car blaze earlier this month. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Malmö police have arrested a man after they caught him setting a vehicle alight in the Rosengård district as the city's spate of summer car fires continued.

Swedes find out how birth control affects your sex life
Swedish birth control pills. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Swedish researchers have investigated whether or not contraceptives affect women's sex lives.

Analysis
Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Police investigators at the scene of the grenade blast in Gothenburg. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

The Local speaks to two crime experts about why an eight-year-old boy became the latest victim of gang-related conflicts in Gothenburg.

Trump accuses Ericsson of bribing Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Ohio. Photo: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

US presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke about the Swedish telecom giant at a campaign rally in Ohio.

Sorrow for boy killed in Gothenburg gang attack
The window of the Biskopsgården apartment broken by a grenade. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

The eight-year-old killed when a grenade was thrown into the window of an apartment is reported to be a resident of Birmingham, England.

Homes
In pictures: eight of Sweden's most colourful homes
Don't be afraid of colour. Photo: Wrede Fastighetsmäkleri

Tired of Scandinavian black and white design? Houzz.se's Amanda Strömberg guides you to some inspiring colourful homes in Sweden – because they do exist.

Stockholm airspace to close for Joe Biden visit
Biden and Swedish PM Stefan Löfven during a March 2015 meeting. Photo: Tomas & Monica Enqvist/TT

Along with traditional aircraft, drones, paragliders and even model airplanes will be banned from the skies while the US Vice President is in Sweden.

Why Sweden could change its pre-trial detention laws
A Swedish remand prison in Malmö. Photo: Ola Torkelsson/TT

"We have received strong international criticism over a number of years," Interior Minister Anders Ygeman commented on the much-criticised current system.

Opinion
'Integration is about more than a language and a job'
Abdulalim Alkatea. Photo: Private

Learning the local language and finding a job is not enough to become fully integrated in a society, argues Abdulalim Alkatea, a Syrian architect living in Sweden.

Boy, 8, dies in Swedish hand grenade blast
The apartment where a young boy died. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

UPDATED: Police are investigating if an explosion which killed a child in Gothenburg suburb Biskopsgården on Monday morning is a revenge attack.

Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
Blog updates

26 July

A summer of change; a summer of beauty (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"You would have had to try hard to miss the political upheavals in the UK after…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
The Local Voices
Syrian presenter: Swedish media should make more shows in Arabic
Travel
Watch the meteor shower in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Lifestyle
How to survive a crayfish party
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
IN PICS: Your Sweden summer snaps
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
National
Why are fewer foreign graduates staying in Sweden to work?
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Culture
This Swedish street artist's incredible murals will make your jaw drop
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Gallery
Property of the week: Östersund, Jämtland
The Local Voices
'Swedes have the right to decide what's best for their nation'
The Local Voices
Gabriel mastered Swedish and got accepted onto a medicine degree in just 7 months
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
3,354
jobs available