A cheer went up in the Swedish Academy as they announced that, for the first time since 1974, one of their fellow countrymen had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Tomas Tranströmer is a poet who, according to Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, writes about "death, history, memory and nature. A lot about nature." He is the first poet to win the prize since 1996.
Interviewed shortly after the announcement, Englund said that Tranströmer had "never been a full-time writer as such", and that he also was not a prolific poet: "You could fit all of [his work] into a not-too-large pocket book." He was awarded the prize because "through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality".
In 1990, Tranströmer, who was born in 1931, suffered from a stroke that left him partly paralyzed and unable to speak. He continued to write poetry, with his latest collection appearing in 2004. He is one of the most highly regarded and widely translated Swedish poets.
He has been a perennial favorite for the prize in recent years, with Swedish journalists apparently waiting outside his apartment on the day of the prize, just in case he won.
Tranströmer had also become the overnight favorite with British bookmaker Ladbrokes, surpassing unexpected leader Bob Dylan, though they say that this betting pattern wasn't suspicious.
The prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns (around $1.45 million). The winner also delivers a lecture that is widely reported around the world. As Tranströmer cannot speak, he may choose, as Doris Lessing did in 2007, simply to publish his response to the award.
You can read two of Tranströmer's poems here.
Was he a worthy winner? Who did you want to win? Which is your favorite Tranströmer poem? Let us know in the comments!
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