You might not have heard of Tomas Tranströmer before he won the Nobel prize for literature on Thursday, but he wasn't a complete dark horse, with bookies placing him as fourth-favourite. By THERESA MALLINSON.
Octogenarian Tomas Tranströmer was odds on favourite to win the Nobel prize for literature in 2010, but lost out to Peruvian writer Mario Vegas Llosa. This year his time had come. The choice is not uncontroversial (when is it ever?), with critics accusing the Nobel committee of insularity; Tranströmer, after all, is Swedish.
In the Swedes' favour, though, the last time one of their own won the literature prize was way back in 1974. “It's not that we spread them around on Swedes each and every year,” said Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy. “We have been quite thoughtful about this – we have not been rash in choosing a Swede.”
Although Tranströmer is well known and respected within the international poetry community, his name didn't immediately ring a bell in the greater populace. South African poet Fiona Zerbst gave Daily Maverick the lowdown. “When I saw he was up for the prize last year and this year I was quite pleased,” she said. “He has quite a solid, distinctive vision. He's a psychologist; he's not like other poets. He's made some interesting comments about writing as a psychologist: how he looks at himself from so many angles.
“It's wonderful every time a poet wins (the Nobel prize),” Zerbst added. “I think that it just validates poetry all over again.” As the Nobel prize committee put it, Tranströmer won: “because, through his condensed, transluscent (sic) images, he gives us fresh access to reality.” Hopefully more people will begin to access Tranströmer's poetic version of reality now that his name has been splashed around the globe. There's no excuse not to – his work has already been translated into more than 50 languages. DM