Swedish poet Transtromer wins Nobel in literature

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The Swedish Academy has also been criticized for being too Euro-centric, ignoring writers from other parts of the world. Seven of the last 10 winners have been Europeans.

While critics are impressed by the beauty of his writing, some have criticized it for a lack of social commentary, so often found in the works of other Nobel winners, including last year’s laureate Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru.

Humble and unpretentious, Transtromer has always avoided political debates and has stayed away from the public eye as much as possible.

“I think dad above all thinks this is great for his readers,” his daughter, Paula Transtromer, said about the prize. “That’s most important to him.”

Born in Stockholm in 1931, Transtromer was raised by his mother, a teacher, after she divorced his father _ a journalist. He started writing poetry while studying at the Sodra Latin school in Stockholm.

His work was published in several journals before he published his first book of poetry, “17 poems,” in 1954, winning much acclaim in Sweden.

He studied literature, history, poetics, the history of religion and psychology at Stockholm University, and later divided his time between poetry and his work as a psychologist. Between 1960 and 1966 he worked as psychologist at Roxtuna, an institution for juvenile offenders.

“A lot of great poets don’t do anything but writing poetry,” Transtromer’s longtime friend, Swedish author Lars Gustafsson said. “But here you have a man who has worked really hard his entire life as a psychologist and who has been writing on Saturday afternoons and in his spare time, often in small, cramped rooms.”

“I think his readers also experience him in that way. His poetry is very elementary. It is about things that nearly all people share, such as dreams,” Gustafsson added.

Staffan Bergsten, who wrote a biography on Transtrom published this year, said his work is characterized by a combination of the ordinary _ people, nature _ and the feeling that “there’s something secretive underneath.”

“No strange words, nothing like that. Anyone can understand it at some level. But then there are other dimensions,” he said.

Transtromer’s most famous works include the 1966 “Windows and Stones,” in which he depicts themes from his many travels, and “Baltics” from 1974.

Since the 1950’s, Transtromer has had a close friendship with American poet Robert Bly, who translated many of his works into English. In 2001, Transtromer’s Swedish publishing house Bonniers published the correspondence between the two writers in the book “Air Mail.”

Earlier this year, Bonniers released a collection of his works between 1954 and 2004 to celebrate the poet’s 80th birthday.

“We have waited and waited, we had nearly stopped hoping (for a Nobel) but still not given up the last strand of hope,” said Anna Tillgren, spokeswoman for Bonniers. “We are overwhelmed. This is the happiest day ever for many of us working at the publishing house.”

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