Considering that Sweden has hosted the Nobel Prize Awards for more than a century and until Thursday had not presented one of its own authors with the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1974 (to Eyvind Johnson), the world can hardly blame the awards committee for presenting this year’s prize to poet Tomas Transtromer.
Along with the Syrian poet Adonis, Transtromer was among the top ten authors favored by Britain’s Ladbrokes betting agency as a likely win. Transtromer, according to the agency, was an 8-1 favorite while Adonis was favored 4-1. The poets are also close in age, with the Swede born 1931 and the Syrian in 1930. However, Transtromer became the 104th recipient of the award by virtue of what the prize committee recognized as the following: “through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality."
Transtromer has published volumes of acclaimed works in both his native tongue and in translations, among them: The Sorrow Gondola (Green Integer, 2010); New Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011); and The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (New Directions, 2003). As an author who has already received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the Swedish Award from the International Poetry Forum, few would argue that he deserves the Nobel prize as well. Yet even as the crowd of onlookers cheered and applauded the announcement of his win, many others were stunned (as people tend to be when their cultural heroes do not triumph) that the name called out was not that of Adonis.
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Syrian poet Adonis Snapshot of a Distinguished Nobel Contender