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Tomas Transtromer awarded Nobel Prize in Literature

6th October 2011

Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer has been awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature by the Swedish Academy.

He was the favourite for the prize before today's announcement and becomes the first Swedish writer for 37 years to be awarded the honour.

The Academy said the decision was made because the 80-year-old 'through his condensed, translucent images, gives us fresh access to reality'.

Transtromer has been partially paralysed and unable to speak since suffering a stroke in 1990, but has continued to write and publish a number of poems – including 2004's acclaimed The Great Enigma.

Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the academy, noted that Transtromer's 60-year writing career has seen him address a number of complex issues in his poems, including both personal and global matters.

He added that the academy cannot be accused of bias, given that, although Transtromer is Swedish, he is the first writer from the country to win the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1974 and has had an undoubtedly successful career.

'I think we've been quite thoughtful and haven't been rash. He's been writing poetry since 1951.

'He's writing about big questions, he's writing about death, he's writing about history and memory and nature,' Englund added.

Transtromer was born in Stockholm in 1931 to a teacher mother and journalist father and began writing poetry while he attended the city's Sodra Latin School.

He received a psychology degree from Stockholm University and would go on to divide his time between poetry and his profession as a psychologist, publishing the first of many collections – Seventeen Poems – in 1954.

The poems contained in that collection and several others were later published in New Collected Poems, compiled and translated by Robin Fulton.

Englund said Transtromer took the news in his stride when he was informed of his triumph.

'I think he was surprised, astonished. He sat relaxing and listening to music. But he said it was very good.'

Transtromer's victory meant that a surprise late contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature – music legend Bob Dylan – missed out on the award. 

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