Swede wins Nobel Prize for Literature

A Swedish poet, who suffered a stroke more than 20 years ago, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature at the age of 80.

Tomas Transtroemer was named as the recipient by the Royal Swedish Academy, “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”.

The prize, which was presented last year to Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, is only given to living writers and is worth SEK 10 million (EUR 1 million). Transtroemer, from Stockholm, is the first Swede to receive the accolade since it was shared by Harry Martinson and Eyvind Johnson in 1974.

A trained psychologist who once worked at a young offenders’ institute, Transtroemer has had trouble speaking since 1990 when he suffered a stroke. His poetry, described as “mystical, versatile and sad”, by Publishers Weekly, has been translated into more than 50 languages.

Robin Fulton, who did much of the English translations, told the BBC, “You don’t feel quite the same after you’ve read it as you did before.”

He added, “Some of the Swedish I’ve learnt was learnt in the process of translating Tomas. You have to plunge in somewhere. When you’re in the mood it’s good until someone points out the mistakes you’ve made.”

Transtroemer’s first collection, Seventeen Poems, was published when he was just 23. In 2003, one of his pieces was read at the funeral service of murdered Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh.