Synopses & Reviews
A short selection of haunting, meditative poems from the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature
Tomas Tranströmer can be clearly recognized not just as Sweden's most important poet, but as a writer of international stature whose work speaks to us now with undiminished clarity and resonance. Long celebrated as a master of the arresting, suggestive image, Tranströmer is a poet of the liminal: drawn again and again to thresholds of light and of water, the boundaries between man and nature, wakefulness and dream. A deeply spiritual but secular writer, his skepticism about humanity is continually challenged by the implacable renewing power of the natural world. His poems are epiphanies rooted in experience: spare, luminous meditations that his extraordinary images split open — exposing something sudden, mysterious, and unforgettable.
"For decades U.S. poets and those in the know have been talking about Tranströmer, the haunting Swedish poet who's supposedly been on the Nobel shortlist for years. Now that he's actually taken this year's prize, he's no longer a secret. Readers can choose from several selections of poems with different English translators from New Directions, Ecco, Graywolf, and others all of which are pretty good, though this little book rushed out by FSG may be the best introduction, if not the best value dollar per page. U.K. poetry star Robertson offers his lucid versions of 15 poems from throughout Tranströmer's long career, which began in the '50s. Tranströmer favors dark, wintry, portentous landscapes that show more than they tell: the chilling and typical 'Midwinter' reads, in its entirety, 'A blue light/ streams out of my clothes./ Midwinter./ Ringing tambourines of ice./ I close my eyes./ There is a silent world,/ there is a crack/ where the dead/ are smuggled over the border.' Fear and acceptance of death are everywhere in the background 'In the middle of life, death comes/ to take your measurements. The visit/ is forgotten and life goes on. But the suit/ is being sewn on the sly' but it's tempered by an observant communication with nature, which offers a kind of company if not solace: 'The child's eyes grow wide in the dark/ and the storm howls for him./ Both love the swinging lamps; both are halfway towards speech.' While readers will certainly be left wanting more pages, the fact that they will is a tribute to Robertson's clear and deep sympathy with Tranströmer's world." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“His renderings are more fluid when it comes to English syntax than some translations I've read that may be more accurate but are somewhat stilted....Robertson has done justice to the greatest qualities of Tranströmers poems: their evocative, striking imagery and uncanny metaphorical resonance....It's a collection that sparks with an exquisite, awakened awareness of the world.” Barbara Carey, Toronto Star
“Robin Robertson, himself no mean verse-maker, has taken a small selection from Tranströmer's 11 volumes and rendered them beautifully. And he has done so in a form that maintains the resonance and forceful imagery of the originals, and their engagement with the natural world, as well as providing a nimble introduction....Lovely stuff.” Globe & Mail
“Robertson's fine work comes at an ideal time....Tranströmers world is deeply northern, with scenes of snow, islands in chill waters, clouds and mists. But always, he is really speaking about innerscapes of the human soul....Robertson transmits the startle.” Philadelphia Inquirer
About the Author
Tomas Tranströmer was born in Stockholm in 1931. He is the author of eleven books of poetry and has received numerous international honors. In October 2011 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He lives with his wife in Stockholm.