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6 October 2011

2011 Nobel Prize for Literature awarded

Medal goes to Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer.

By Alice Gribbin

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)

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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.