Friday, October 07, 2011

Tomas wins!

The readers of this blog are obviously prescient. Just over five years since he won a bottle of that venerable Kiwi beer Old Thumper after topping a poll here poll for the title of Greatest Living Writer, seeing off competition from the likes of John Ashbery and Jack Ross, Tomas Transtromer has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I admit to voting more than once in 2006: Transtromer is one of my favourite living writers, and I feel evangelical about his work. Whenever I meet Swedish tourists at a bar or a backpackers' hostel I pester and puzzle them with questions about how the great man's texts look in his native language, and I've posted a number of Transtromer poems on this blog over the years with short commentaries (see here and here, for example). I dragged Transtromer into the introduction I wrote to Ted Jenner's collected writings a couple of years ago, and I recently pinched one of his greatest lines for one of my own poems. I'm delighted, then, that the Nobel Committee has followed the lead readers of this blog took back in 2006.

Swedish literature has become synonymous in many minds with disposable crime novels, but Transtromer is only one of a number of great modernist poets the country has produced - his haunted predecessor Gunnar Ekelof has been discussed here - and the 2011 Nobel will hopefully open doors to this wider body of work.

The new Nobel is a win not just for Transtromer and other Swedish poets but for poetry itself. No poet has carried off the award for fifteen years, and I've argued that in the twenty-first century the methods of poetry are inreasingly at odds with an aggressively philistine media and with the way that the internet is being 'developed' by corporations like Google. By rejecting easy, populist options like the novelists Cormac McCarthy and Philip Roth and plumbing for Transtromer's intense and sometimes demanding oeuvre, the Nobel Committee has reaffirmed the importance of poetry to culture.

[Posted by Maps]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

TT's language is actually quite straightforward - that's why he translates so well. What is deep, very deep, is his imagery. Deep and strange. A deserving winner.

10:24 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...more than meets the eye...

10:27 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Nobel committee's reason for awarding the Prize to Transtromer:

'because, through his intense, translucent imagery, he gives us fresh access to reality'

11:00 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Great news! I have the European series with Haaviko but I ordered TT's latest (or most recent in English) collection.

I also want to look at Martinson's strange poem Aniera...

9:18 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I wouldn't wipe out Roth and McCarthy though Maps! But else I agree (poet over a novelist is good, although Martinson was both...). The Nobel is always problematic and always somewhat controversial, but Transtromer is one of the greats and a good choice.

There are undoubtedly though a host of interesting poets in Scandinavia and there is not much on them in my local library (really the greater Auckland region library) ... but Anselm Hollo and Bly etc have some some great translations.

My book of writers by Seymour -Smith is out of date...and his opinions are sometimes informative and probably right with some salt added, but sometimes quite dubious. I need something more current and comprehensive like that huge work of his...all criticism is fraught of course.

9:34 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

There is no Mathematics Nobel prize because Nobel's wife ran off or had affair with a mathematician!

But a NZ Mathematician won the equivalent prize in maths. I saw small medal for this on the Auckland Uni Science buildings.

I also read about him in a book about maths and mathematical issues.

I think he dealt with the area of knots (a real area of study in advanced mathematics)which was quite abstract but was later used in molecular biology (although it was not intended to have any use as such).

9:41 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

This is the bloke - he won Fields medal often called the Nobel Prize for mathematcs.

Sir Vaughan Frederick Randal Jones, KNZM, FRS, FRSNZ (born 31 December 1952) is a New Zealand mathematician, known for his work on von Neumann algebras, knot polynomials and conformal field theory. He was awarded a Fields Medal in 1990, and famously wore a New Zealand rugby jersey when he accepted the prize. Jones is currently on the faculty of Vanderbilt University as a distinguished professor of mathematics.[1] He previously served as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a Distinguished Alumni Professor at the University of Auckland.
Jones was born in Gisborne, New Zealand and brought up in Cambridge, New Zealand, completing secondary school at Auckland Grammar School. His undergraduate studies were at the University of Auckland, from where he obtained a B.Sc. in 1972 and an M.Sc. in 1973. For his graduate studies, he went to Switzerland, where he completed his Ph.D. at the University of Geneva in 1979. His thesis, titled Actions of finite groups on the hyperfinite II1 factor, was written under the supervision of André Haefliger. In 1980, he moved to the United States, where he taught at the University of California, Los Angeles (1980–1981) and the University of Pennsylvania (1981–1985), before being appointed as Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.
His work on knot polynomials, with the discovery of what is now called the Jones polynomial, was from an unexpected direction with origins in the theory of von Neumann algebras, an area of analysis already much developed by Alain Connes. It led to the solution of a number of the classical problems of knot theory, and to increased interest in low-dimensional topology.
He was awarded the Rutherford Medal by the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1991, and the Fields Medal in 1990. Also in 1990 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society [2] He was awarded Distinguished Companionship of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002 (later reassigned to Knight Companion in August 2009).

9:52 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

His ares of study all seems very abstract (like some modernist and post-modernist poetry!) and are beyond me: but I do know it came (by chance I think) to have important results, potentially, for example, to medicine via molecular biology.

But there but for fortune and human jealousy he might have got a Nobel.

9:57 pm  
Blogger dave said...

10:24 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Dave - thanks for that link I hope
TT keeps well as much as he can considering his age and this reward will help him feel good.

Robert Bly translated him. I had a book of US poetry in 1968 and the only poem I recall was one by Bly (before I knew who he was, so to speak!) - it was beautiful. His style is sometimes like Transtromer's. They are friends it says...

10:44 pm  

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