Tomas Tranströmer

THE LAUREATE: Tomas Tranströmer is the current Nobel laureate and my first subject for review. Just go to his site. I will talk about the poems collected and translated in The Great Enigma, but tomorrow or maybe Saturday. Sometime soon.

Not only is he the Nobel laureate in literature, but he is also the most famous entomologist in Sweden. He even has a beetle named after him.
This is going to be incredible.

UPDATE: I’ve gotten a chance to read some of Mr. Tranströmer’s work, and I am impressed. Thematically, Tranströmer is interested in contrasts: the living vs. the dead, the natural world vs. the world of human forms. One image in particular that seems to sum up his worldview is “a helmet worn by no one has taken power.” Tranströmer uses striking imagery; the helmet is one example. Another that seems to run through his most recent poems is that of people without faces; I suspect that the Swedish word that Mr. Fulton translates as “face” has a stronger sense of “mask” than it does in English. That’s the only way I can really interpret lines like “people with a future/instead of a face.” (That’s not to denigrate the translation- it’s very good and usually flows well. I just care about words too much to let things like that go unnoticed).

Incidentally, there is a setting of “The Sad Gondola” for a strange and Schoenbergesque ensemble that I quite enjoy. Go listen to it.

RECOMMENDED: Yes. The Great Enigma is apparently a translation of everything Tranströmer has published. Go buy it, or at least check it out of the library.
WHAT’S NEXT? Either Sully Prudhomme or Boris Pasternak. I’ve been reading Zhivago for a few weeks, and my girlfriend has been to busy to translate Prudhomme for a while.

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