Swedish poet wins Nobel in literature

In this March 31, 2001 file photo, Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer poses for a photograph in his home in Stockholm, Sweden. AP Photo

STOCKHOLM - The 2011 Nobel Prize in literature was awarded Thursday to Tomas Transtromer, a Swedish poet whose surrealistic works about the mysteries of the human mind won him acclaim as one of the most important Scandinavian writers since World War II.

The Swedish Academy said it recognized the 80-year-old poet "because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality."

In 1990, Transtromer suffered a stroke, which left him half-paralyzed and unable to speak, but he continued to write and published a collection of poems — "The Great Enigma" — in 2004.

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Transtromer has been a perennial favorite for the $1.5 million award, and in recent years Swedish journalists have waited outside his apartment in Stockholm on the day the literature prize was announced.

Transtromer's most famous works include the 1966 "Windows and Stones," in which he depicts themes from his many travels and "Baltics" from 1974.

His works have been translated into more than 50 languages and influenced poets around the globe, particularly in North America.

Since the 1950's, Transtromer has had a close friendship with American poet Robert Bly, who translated many of his works into English. In 2001, Transtromer's Swedish publishing house Bonniers published the correspondence between the two writers in the book "Air Mail."

Earlier this year, publishing house Bonniers released a collection of his works between 1954 and 2004 to celebrate the poet's 80th birthday.

Born in Stockholm in 1931, Transtromer grew up alone with his teacher mother after she divorced his father — a journalist. He started writing poetry while studying at the Sodra Latin school in Stockholm and debuted with the collection "Seventeen Poems" at age 23.

He received a degree in psychology from Stockholm University and later divided his time between poetry and his work as a psychologist.

Here's a sample of his work - Outskirts, translated by Robert Bly:

Men in overalls the same color as earth rise from a ditch.
It's a transitional place, in stalemate, neither country nor city.
Construction cranes on the horizon want to take the big leap,
but the clocks are against it.
Concrete piping scattered around laps at the light with cold tongues.
Auto-body shops occupy old barns.
Stones throw shadows as sharp as objects on the moon surface.
And these sites keep on getting bigger
like the land bought with Judas' silver: "a potter's field for
burying strangers."

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