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Tomas Transtromer biography

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Tomas Transtromer

Tomas Transtromer

How to pronounce Tomas Transtromer: TRAWN-stroh-mur

Tomas Transtromer Biography

Tomas Tranströmer was born in 1931 in Stockholm where he grew up but spent many long summers on the island of Runmarö in the nearby archipelago, evoking that landscape in his early work, which draws on the aesthetic tradition of Swedish nature poetry. His later poetry is more personal, open and relaxed, often reflecting his broad interests: travel, music, painting, archaeology, and natural sciences.

He was Scandinavia's best-known and most influential contemporary poet. His books sell thousands of copies in Sweden, and his work has been translated into over 50 languages, with substantial or complete editions of his work published in over 20 languages.

Tranströmer started writing poetry while at the oppressive Södra Latin Grammar School (its atmosphere caught by Ingmar Bergman in Alf Sjöberg's Frenzy, which was filmed there, the young Tomas amongst the pupils). But he was devouring books on all subjects, especially geography, with daily visits to the local library, where he worked his way through most of the non-fiction shelves. However, this bookish adolescence was shadowed by the war, by his parents' divorce and the absence of his father, and at 15 he experienced a winter of psychological crisis. He published his first collection, 17 Poems, in 1954, at the age of 23.

After studying psychology at the University of Stockholm, he worked at its Psychotechnological Institute, and in 1960 became a psychologist at Roxtuna, a young offenders institution. From the mid-1960s he divided his time between his writing and his work as a psychologist, and in 1965 moved with his family to Västerås, where he spent the rest of his working life. In 1990, a year after the publication of his tenth book of poems, Tranströmer suffered a stroke, which deprived him of most of his speech and partly inhibited movement on his right-hand side. Swedish composers wrote several left-hand piano pieces especially for him to play.

Since his stroke, he published a short book of 'autobiographical chapters,' Memories Look at Me (1993) and The Sad Gondola (1996), both included in Robin Fulton's translation of his Bloodaxe New Collected Poems (1997). In 2004 he published The Great Enigma, a slim volume containing five short poems and a group of 45 even smaller haiku-type poems. These were added to the New Collected Poems to form Tranströmer's first collected edition to appear in the States, licensed by Bloodaxe Books to New Directions in 2006 under the title The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems. That edition was published by Bloodaxe Books in the UK as the latest revised and expanded edition of New Collected Poems in 2010.

Tranströmer also translated other poets into Swedish, including Robert Bly and Hungary's János Pilinszky. Before winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2011, he had won many other international awards for his poetry, including the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in the US, the Bonner Award for Poetry, Germany's Petrarch Prize, the Bellman Prize, the Swedish Academy's Nordic Prize, and the August Prize. In 1997 the city of Västerås established a special Tranströmer Prize. In 2007, he received a special Lifetime Recognition Award given by the trustees of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, which also awards the annual Griffin Poetry Prize.

Tomas Tranströmer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2011. He died in March 2015 aged 83.

Tomas Transtromer's website

This bio was last updated on 03/30/2015. In a perfect world, we would like to keep all of BookBrowse's biographies up to date, but with many thousands of lives to keep track of it's simply impossible to do. So, if the date of this bio is not recent, you may wish to do an internet search for a more current source, such as the author's website or social media presence. If you are the author or publisher and would like us to update this biography, send the complete text and we will replace the old with the new.

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Interview

Tomas Tranströmer (assisted by his wife Monica) sits for an interview after being announced as the 2011 Nobel Prize-winner in Literature.

In the video below, Tomas Tranströmer (assisted by his wife Monica) sits for an interview after being announced as the 2011 Nobel Prize-winner in Literature.

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Books by this Author

Books by Tomas Transtromer at BookBrowse
The Half-Finished Heaven jacket
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All the books below are recommended as read-alikes for Tomas Transtromer but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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    If you enjoyed:
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  • Kay Ryan

    Kay Ryan

    Kay Ryan, United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in California in 1945 and grew up in the small towns of the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. She received both a bachelor's and master's ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
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