The academy said it awarded the 80-year-old poet “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.” Born in 1931 in Stockholm, Tranströmer is a poet, translator and psychologist, who has been translated into 50 languages. The child of divorced parents, Tranströmer studied at Södra Latin in Stockholm and graduated as a psychologist from Stockholm University in 1956. He began writing early, at age 13 and published his first collection of poems in 1954 titled “17 dikter” (Seventeen poems).
His work, though, lies within and further develops the Modernist and Expressionist/Surrealist language of 20th century poetry; his clear, seemingly simple pictures from everyday life and nature in particular reveals a mystic insight into the universal aspects of the human mind.

Tranströmer is a close friend of the American poet Robert Bly and their correspondence has been published in the book “Air Mail”. In 1990, Tranströmer suffered a stroke that affects his speech, but he continues to write.


Tranströmer has in the past been mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and is considered one of Sweden's foremost poets. In addition to his work as a writer, Tranströmer was also a respected psychologist before he had his stroke. He worked in juvenile prisons, and with disabled, convicts, and drug addicts. He is also a piano player, something he has been able to continue after his stroke, albeit with one hand. Here’s a few lines describing a forest from one of Tranströmer’s poems from the book “Dikter” 1985.

“… Skogen är tysta övergivna lokaler så här års.

Bara några få slags ljud: som om någon flyttade kvistar

försiktigt med en pincett

eller ett gångjärn som gnyr svagt inne i en tjock stam.”

This is the first time since 1974 a Swede has been awarded the prize (Harry Martinsson and Eyvind Johnsson shared the honor that year).