Tomas Tranströmer – My Nobel prize-winning hero
The literature prize means the world of poetry can finally raise a glass to salute this humble man
Friday 7 October 2011 13.28 BST
very October, for decades, a group of reporters and photographers have gathered in the stairwell of an apartment block in a quiet district of Stockholm, waiting to hear if the poet upstairs has finally won the Nobel prize for literature. The poet's wife, Monica, would bring them tea and biscuits while they stood around – but they would always leave, around lunchtime, as the news came in that the prize had gone to someone else. Annually, the name of Tomas Tranströmer comes up, and with every year one felt a growing sense that he would never receive this highest literary honour from his own country. The vigil is over now, with Thursday's wonderful news.
The landscape of Tranströmer's poetry – the jagged coastland of his native Sweden, with its dark spruce and pine forests, sudden light and sudden storm, restless seas and endless winters – is mirrored by his direct, plain-speaking style and arresting, unforgettable images. The master-poet of anxiety, of stress, he explores the vulnerability of the human in the face of the irrational – intrigued by polarities and how we respond to finding ourselves amid epiphanies, at pivotal points, at the fulcrum of a moment: "The sun is scorching. The plane comes in low, / throwing a shadow in the shape of a giant cross, rushing over the ground. / A man crouches over something in the field. / The shadow reaches him. / For a split-second he is in the middle of the cross. // I have seen the cross that hangs from cool church arches. / Sometimes it seems like a snapshot / of frenzy." ("Out in the Open")
Tranströmer is not only Scandinavia's greatest living poet, he is a writer of world stature. It is an honour to know this man, and to have translated some of his work – and a huge happiness to me that this work will now reach so many new readers. The world of poetry can finally raise a glass to salute this humble man, this magnificent poet.
The Deleted World by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Robertson, is published by Enitharmon.