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Swedish Poet Wins 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature

Tomas Transtromer, Swedish poet (File Photo).
Tomas Transtromer, Swedish poet (File Photo).

The Swedish Academy awarded one of Sweden’s most famous living poets, Tomas Tranströmer, the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday - making him the first Swede in nearly 40 years to win the award.

“The Nobel prize in literature for 2011 is awarded to the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer because through his condensed, translucent images he gives us fresh access to reality,” the announcer said.

This is not the first literary award for Tomas Tranströmer, whose poems have been translated into nearly 60 languages over the last five decades.

Tranströmer - a trained psychologist - first emerged on the literary scene in 1954, with his collection, called 17 Dikter, or 17 poems, published by Bonnier.

His daughter, Paula Tranströmer, says she and her father are shocked.
She says he found out about five minutes before the announcement on television so he hadn't had time to prepare. That's why he looked so calm. And she thinks he's still in shock.'

He still works with the same Stockholm-based publisher today. Anna Tillgren spoke on behalf of Bonnier.

"Absolutely, totally happiness and of course shock - the happiest day in my life I must to say if I'm really honest," said Tillgren.  

Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund made the announcement, defending the academy’s pick of a Swede, by saying it was a “thoughtful” process.

“He’s writing about big questions," said Englund. "He’s writing about death, he’s writing about history and memory, and nature.”

Tranströmer has appeared among the list of nominees for the prize for many years. One well-wisher, who left a congratulatory message on the Nobel Prize website, wrote, “Finally.”  

New York blogger Michael Orthofer is the author of Literary Saloon and the Complete Review. He says the winner did not come as a big surprise to him.

“He is certainly one of the world’s great poets," said Orthofer. "There is certainly little debate about that. He is very well-regarded among poets.”

Awards for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and for work in peace were first given in 1901. Tranströmer becomes the 107th recipient of the literary award.

The last time a Swede was awarded was in 1974, when Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson won the award. The honor sparked controversy as both were members of the academy.

Along with the award, the 80-year-old is awarded about $1.5 million. Tranströmer currently lives outside Stockholm with his wife.

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