STOCKHOLM // The 2011 Nobel Prize in literature was awarded yesterday to Tomas Transtromer of Sweden, whose surrealistic works about the mysteries of the human mind won him recognition as the most influential Scandinavian poet of recent decades.
The buzz in literary circles in recent weeks had been that the Arab Spring uprisings could influence the prize committee to give the award to an Arab-language writer for only the second time in history. Some suggested the Syrian poet Adonis was one of the frontrunners.
The 10 million kronor (Dh5.5m) award in the end went to Transtromer, whose poems are characterised by powerful imagery and often built around his own experiences and infused with his love of music and nature. His later poems are darker, probing existential questions of life, death and disease.
Transtromer, 80, a psychologist and avid amateur pianist, suffered a stroke in 1990 that left him half-paralysed and unable to speak, but he continued to write and published a collection of poems, The Great Enigma, in 2004. He has since retired from writing.
Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, said: "He's writing about big questions. He's writing about death, he's writing about history and memory, and nature."
Transtromer, born in Stockholm in 1931, was raised by his mother, a teacher, after she divorced his father, a journalist. He started writing poetry while studying at the Sodra Latin school in Stockholm. He published his first book of poetry, 17 poems, in 1954, winning acclaim in Sweden. He studied literature, history, poetics, the history of religion and psychology at Stockholm University, and later divided his time between poetry and his work as a psychologist. His most famous works include the 1966 Windows and Stones, in which he depicts themes from his many travels, and Baltics from 1974.
* Associated Press with Agence France-Presse