2011 Nobel Prize for Literature awarded

Medal goes to Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer.

The 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, making him the 108th recipient of the written word's highest accolade.

The Swedish Academy, which decides the winner, said it was recognizing Tranströmer as "through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality."

Considered the country's foremost poet, Tranströmer, 80, becomes the eighth Swede to be granted the award (along with 10 million kronor; around £940,000), and the eighth European literature laureate in the last decade.

A good ten minutes before the announcement was made (at noon GMT; 1pm Sweden) it seemed someone in an office, somewhere (assumedly not the Academy palace in Stockholm, above), had blundered, posting the winner prematurely on the Nobel Prize website. It was quickly found to be a hoax site naming the wrong winner (though a good enough copy)

Tranströmer was hardly considered the frontrunner in the UK. Although the Academy deemed it "crazy speculation", the bookies' odds of a win for folk singer-songwriter Bob Dylan were slashed in recent days -- from 100/1 down to 5/1 -- making him the safest bet for those so inclined. A Pulitzer prize he did win in 2008, with judges citing "his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power." Odds were also very good for Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle's Japanese author, Haruki Murakami.

Recent winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature include Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa in 2010, German poet Herta Müller in 2009, French novelist J. M. G. Le Clézio in 2008 and British author of socialist, feminist and sci fi works, Doris Lessing, in 2007.

You can read a couple of Tranströmer's poems in translation on The Owl's website, here. It is National Poetry Day, after all.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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How did Don’t Tell the Bride lose its spark?

Falling out of the love with reality TV’s wedding planning hit.

Steph, 23, from Nottinghamshire, is standing in a drizzly field wearing a wedding dress. Her betrothed, Billy, is running around in a tweed flat cap trying to make some pigs walk in “a continuous parade”. A man from Guinness World Records is watching with a clipboard, shaking his head. Bridesmaids gaze sorrowfully into the middle distance, each in a damp pig onesie.

Thus ends the second wedding in E4’s new series of Don’t Tell the Bride – and the programme’s integrity with it.

When the classic programme, which follows grooms attempting to plan their wedding (punchline: human males doing some organising), began a decade ago on BBC Three, it had the raw spark of unpredictability. For eight years, the show did nothing fancy with the format, and stuck with pretty ordinary couples who had few eccentric aspirations for their wedding day.

This usually resulted in run-of-the-mill, mildly disappointing weddings where the worst thing that happened would be a reception at the nearest motorway pub, or an ill-fitting New Look low heel.

It sounds dull, but anyone who has religiously watched it knows that the more low-key weddings expose what is truly intriguing about this programme: the unconditional commitment – or doomed nature – of a relationship. As one of the show’s superfans told the Radio Times a couple of years ago:

“It’s perfect, and not in an ironic or post-ironic or snarky way. The format has the solemn weight of a ceremony . . . Don’t Tell the Bride is not about ruined weddings, it’s about hope. Every wedding is a demonstration of how our ambitions curve away from our abilities. It’s a show about striving to deserve love and how that’s rarely enough.”

It also meant that when there were bombshells, they were stand-out episodes. High drama like Series 4’s notorious Las Vegas wedding almost resulting in a no-show bride. Or heart-warming surprises like the geezer Luke in Series 3 playing Fifa and guzzling a tinny on his wedding morning, who incongruously pulls off a stonking wedding day (complete with special permission from the Catholic Church).

For its eight years on BBC Three, a few wildcard weddings were thrown into the mix of each series. Then the show had a brief affair with BBC One, a flirt with Sky, and is now on its tenth year, 13th series and in a brand new relationship – with the more outrageous E4.

During its journey from BBC Three, the show has been losing its way. Tedious relationship preamble has been used to beef up each episode. Some of the grooms are cruel rather than clueless, or seem more pathetic and vulnerable than naïve. And wackier weddings have become the norm.

The programme has now fully split from its understated roots. Since it kicked off at the end of July, every wedding has been a publicity stunt. The pig farm nuptials are sandwiched between a Costa del Sol-based parasail monstrosity and an Eighties Neighbours-themed ceremony, for example. All facilitated by producers clearly handing the groom and best men karaoke booth-style props (sombreros! Inflatable guitars! Wigs!) to soup up the living room planning process.

Such hamminess doesn’t give us the same fly-on-the-wall flavour of a relationship as the older episodes. But maybe this level of artifice is appropriate. As one groom revealed to enraged fans in The Sun this week, the ceremonies filmed are not actually legally binding. “It makes a bit of a mockery of the process that the bride and groom go through this huge ordeal for a ceremony which isn’t even legal,” he said. Perhaps we should’ve predicted it would all eventually end in divorce – from reality.

Don’t Tell the Bride is on E4 at 9pm

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.