Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Nobel Prize of Literature goes to Tomas Tranströmer!

How my heart is warming and glowing and sparkling -- Tomas Tranströmer, over 80 years of age, has finally gotten the Nobel Prize of Literature.

I am not exaggerating if I say that Tranströmer is my favourite poet. I don't usually deal with lists of favourites and "the best" of this or that. But Tranströmer hits a Nordic nerve that is so close to my bones, heart and hide and that it will be difficult to push him off the mossy throne I've put him on.

The poem I first read of him and which opened me to his world of blue and grey and green, musicality, his deep love and compassion for the human experience, and the depths underneath and behind everything is the one called "Allegro". It remains one of the poems closest to my heart.


Jag spelar Haydn efter en svart dag
och känner en enkel värme i händerna.

Tangenterna vill. Milda hammare slår.
Klangen är grön, livlig och stilla.

Klangen säger att friheten finns
och att någon inte ger kejsaren skatt.

Jag kör ner händerna i mina haydnfickor
och härmar en som ser lugnt på världen.

Jag hissar haydnflaggan - det betyder:
"Vi ger oss inte, men vill fred."

Musiken är ett glashus på sluttningen
där stenarna flyger, stenarna rullar.

Och stenarna rullar tvärs igenom
men varje ruta förblir hel.

Sadly I don't have the English translation where I'm at (travelling), but I'll look into it when coming home.

Anyway, it is pure beauty.

You can read about him at the page of, here as well, an article from the British newspaper The Guardian, recently in The New York Times, at the Poetry Foundation or just generally do a search on Google about him. A few volumes of his poetry have been translated into English.

Needless to say I find his work worth looking into.


Jacques Felix said...

Although not my absolute favourite, he is a great poet and here's a fine English translation

Waking up is a parachute jump from dreams.
Free of the suffocating turbulence the traveler
sinks toward the green zone of morning.
Things flare up. From the viewpoint of the quivering lark
he is aware of the huge root systems of the trees,
their swaying underground lamps. But aboveground
there’s greenery — a tropical flood of it — with
lifted arms, listening
to the beat of an invisible pump.

You have one of very finest blogs on the Net, but what happened to the lay-out? It can't be viewed in full anymore and I loved to sometimes browse your earlier postings.

Thekla said...

Dear Jacques Felix -

Thank you for your comment! The poem you are reciting is the opening poem of Tranströmer's debut _17 dikter_ / _17 poems_. He already has a regonisable voice which can be seen in many samples from his newer poetry.

As to the setup of the site I am quite frustrated. One day it was just impossible to show more than a few posts per page. I don't know why this is, as my settings haven't changed (should be 20 per page). I actually wrote to Google about it, but I don't expect they have time, interest or capacity to answer. If anyone should know how to alter this so that the Chamber again can have 20 posts per page, don't hesitate to make that clear to me!

As it is now you can click at the top of the left margin, under "Blog Archive". There you can find everything else that I've written about. But that is not the same as browsing, I know.

And thank you for your kind remark about my blog. It really reaches into my heart.


Lyle Daggett said...

I also love Transtromer's poetry. I first read his work, in Robert Bly's translations, in 1975, a selection by Bly titled Friends, You Drank Some Darkness, which also included Bly's translations of Harry Martinson and Gunnar Ekelof; Bly's selection also included the original Swedish poems for each of the translations.

I read from the book, especially Transtromer's poems, for months. It includes "Allegro" -- I've also had a deep love of the poem since I first read it more than 35 years ago.

As I recall, when I first found your blog online, in a comment I posted I included a translation of Transtromer's poem "Efter Nagons Dod" (I don't know how to do umlauts etc. in the comment box here), "After Someone's Death" in English. That poem for a very long time was my favorite poem, by anyone. I also am not very concerned with such rankings, though the poem remains deeply close to me.

If I might, I'll offer an attempt at a translation of "Allegro," using Bly's translation as a guide though not holding to it strictly in a few places.



I play Haydn after a black day
and feel a little warmth in my hands.

The keys are ready. Kind hammers fall.
The sound is green, lively and still.

The sound says that freedom exists
and that someone does not pay tax to Caesar.

I shove my hands in my haydnpockets
and act like one who is calm about the world.

I raise the haydnflag - it signals:
"We do not give up, but want peace."

The music is a glass house on a slope
where stones fly, stones roll.

And stones roll straight through
but every pane of glass is still whole.


My feeling about translating Transtromer into English is that his poems seem deceptively close to English, and they can be tricky. The quality in his poems that is often hardest to convey, it seems to me, is the quietness, the understatement. His poems again and again illuminate a wonderful interior world.

Years ago I listened to a tape cassette recording of Transtromer reading his poems somewhere in the United States. He read in both Swedish and English. I heard in his actual speaking and reading voice that same quiet and understated quality. A surprise, at first, but then not so much.

Robert Bly's translation of "Allegro" (without my meddling) is also included in The Winged Energy of Delight, a selection of Bly's translations of 22 poets, published in the U.S. a few years ago.

I'm hoping to write something about Tomas Transtromer in my own blog in the near future, as soon as I've had some time to sit again with his poems, and pick out some passages to quote.

Thanks for posting about him here.

stenote said...

Read an Interview with Gabriel Garcia Marquez (imaginary) in