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]