Pamela Moberg

Nobel Prize to Tomas Tranströmer

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At 1 p.m. (Swedish time) the Swedish Academy announced the name of the recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature. It goes to the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer.

:clapping: and I think everybody in this country will join me in the applause. Mr. Tranströmer is 80 years old and suffered a stroke some years ago, since then he has speech difficulties, but there is nothing wrong with his brain capacity. He is a much loved poet - translated into more than 50 languages - and very easy to read. I really do recommend him!

But weird things happen. I saw the live broadcast from the Swedish Academy as it was announced. Yet, a few minutes before switching on the TV, I read the Guardian

(which is a highly respected newspaper) and they said that the prize would go to Serbian writer Dobrica Cosic. I do not claim that I know of every author on this planet, but the name was completely new to me. There was even a link to Nobelprize org. which I clicked and they said the same thing :helpsmilie: Now what is going on? Was Nobelprize org. hacked by someone or what? Very weird.

At any rate, we cannot doubt the live broadcast and the speech made by the constant secretary, Mr. Peter Englund. As for myself, I am very pleased and happy. That was all for now from your special Nobel reporter.

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Yes, there was some prankster about posting that "news" about the Serbian author. Nobody has owned up yet, though.

The Swedish papers and blogs are full of comments, 99% in favor. One foreign paper (as yet anonymous) had it that the prize had been awarded to - wait for it -

Tomas Transformer :speechless-smiley-003:

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It seems that Cosic is the "Father" of Serbian Nationalism, and an ond-and-off supporter of some of its more unsavory. aspects during the past couple of decades. He is, however, a writer. I wonder whether the hoax was carried out by a fan or an opponent.

Pamela, can you give us an idea of the kind of poetry Transtromer writes?

To be well-known and much-loved in one's own country and to be translated into 50 languages is quite an achievement. I'll bet I am not the only non-Swede who is a bit embarrassed not to have heard of him before now.

Here's the NY Times story. It's fascinating, but has no examples of his work. That will come, I'm sure.

http://www.nytimes.c...?_r=1&ref=books

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for a while, my book club was trying to read a book from Nobel, Pulitzer and Booker prize winners, but we all felt so depressed and had to shift gears to lighter fare. Still, it's nice to see a poet win the Nobel for literature, as it's been 15 years.

I'm expecting a middle eastern winner for the Peace prize, due to the Arab Spring. However, nominations are due in February, with the announcement in October. So I anticipate one of the early Arab Spring countries to produce a winner, perhaps Tunisia.

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Yes, Jayne, your hopes are at least partly fulfilled. This morning Norway announced the recipients of the Peace Prize. It is Norway that awards the Peace, whereas Sweden awards the rest. I think I have explained this before: When these prize givings started in the beginning of last century, Sweden and Norway were one country.

"The land of the brothers" it was called, partition was in 1905, and since then there are two separate countries, but they share the Nobel Prizes this way.

Anyway, recipients of Peace Prize to be divided equally between the following three ladies:

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia

Leymah Gbowee, also of Liberia

Tawakul Karman of Yemen.

Bart: have some stuff to attend to now, but hope I will be able to return this evening and say something about Tranströmer's poems.

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Bart, I am working on the translation of a poem :smilie_mondieu: well, maybe tomorrow. It is my absolute favorite so I want to do it justice, but I know I will never be able to.

In the meantime, here is an aphorism by Tranströmer: It is called "Two truths".

"Two truths approach each other

One comes from within

one comes from the outside

And where they meet one has a chance to see oneself".

Well, something to think about---

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Thank you for posting the news and these details, Pamela. Never heard of him, but I trust he's deserving.

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Here is the poem I wanted to share with you- translation is mine, apologize for its clumsiness. I have tried to evoke the feeling for nature. Hope you will be able to get at least some sense of that.

"Swedish abodes in solitary places." From “Secrets on the road” 1958.

A tangle of black fir trees and smoking moonbeams.

Here the cottage lies sunken

and it seems without life.

Until the morning dew murmurs and an old man opens - with trembling hand -

the window and lets out an owl.

And in another direction the estate is steaming with butterflies

of laundry sheets flapping by the corner

in the middle of a dying forest where the decay is read through glasses of sap,

the protocol of the bark beetles.

Summer with flaxen rain

or a single thunder cloud

over a barking dog.

The seed is kicking in the soil.

Excited voices. Faces flying in the telephone wires

on stunted quick wings

over the miles of marshland-

The house on an island in the river

brooding its foundations.

A constant smoke – the secret papers of the forest are burning.

The rain turns in heaven. The light meanders in the river.

The house on the slope watches over the white oxen of the waterfall.

Autumn, with a gang of starlings

keeping the dawn in check.

The people move stiffly

on the stage of the lamplight.

Let them feel without anxiety

the camouflaged wings

and the energy of God

rolled up in the dark.

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Thank you so much, Pamela. I confess to being a sucker for those Scandinavian movies involving solitary houses, deserted landscapes, and one or two silent people moving slowly. An endless buildup to a climax that never comes.

But this "solitary place" is crammed with activity. A kind of rural Times Square, actually. Except it returns to life when night ends.. I love it and will pursue some of Transtromer's books.

P.S. Especially love this:

Here the cottage lies sunken

and it seems without life.

Until the morning dew murmurs and an old man opens - with trembling hand -

the window and[ ... ]

Then the surprise.

[ ... ] lets out an owl.

You could write several poems about just how that owl got there and what is his relationship to the man.

It is a great setup for the poem's serious conclusion

Let them feel without anxiety

the camouflaged wings

and the energy of God

rolled up in the dark.

I hope that kfw is reading this.

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Glad you got at least something out of my very clumsy translation, Bart!

Well, you could begin with speaking to your local librarian. A librarian worth his or her salt should be able to guide the prospective reader and suggest works, which might not be in the library, but could be on order from some larger and more well stocked central library. I have always found librarians very helpful when challenged to get hold of something more unusual. A friend of mine is a librarian and she says she is fed up to the gills with requests for, well, wont mention any names here, but you surely see what I mean.

Whatever might be said about my translation, at least I think I managed to capture some of that mystic feel of the original. However, Tomas Tranströmer is very

readable and not what I would call a "difficult" poet.

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Thank you so much, Pamela. I confess to being a sucker for those Scandinavian movies involving solitary houses, deserted landscapes, and one or two silent people moving slowly. An endless buildup to a climax that never comes.

Me too.

It is a great setup for the poem's serious conclusion

Let them feel without anxiety

the camouflaged wings

and the energy of God

rolled up in the dark.

I hope that kfw is reading this.

[insert smilie here] I think I may take your meaning, bart, but let me play completely dense and ask you to explain.

Thanks Pamela and innopac.

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Nobel Prize winner Tomas Transtromer, in translation (Los Angeles Times) October 7, 2011

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Nice article, innopac, thank you.

Pamela, when you were doing your translation, what aspects of his poetry were you trying hardest to convey? Was it the "feel" as you wrote? Is your meter close to his, for example?

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The New Yorker has a Transtromer poem in its latest issue:

The House of Headache

I woke up inside the headache. The headache is a room where I have to stay as I cannot afford to pay rent anywhere else. Every hair aches to the point of turning gray. There is an ache inside that Gordian knot, the brain, which wants to do so much in so many directions. The ache is also a half-moon hanging down in the light-blue sky; the color disappears from my face; my nose is pointing downward; the entire divining rod is turning down toward the subterranean current. I moved into a house built in the wrong place; there is a magnetic pole just under the bed, just under my pillow, and when the weather chops around above the bed I am charged. Time and again I try to imagine that a celestial bonesetter is pinching me through a miraculous grip on my cervical vertebrae, a grip that will put life right once and for all. But the house of headache is not ready to be written off just yet. First I have to live inside it for an hour, two hours, half a day. If at first I said it was a room, change that to a house. But the question now is this: Is it not an entire city? Traffic is unbearably slow. The breaking news is out. And somewhere a telephone is ringing.

(Translated, from the Swedish, by John Matthias and Lars-Hakan Svensson.)

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Thank you kfw for the House of Headache. Just wonder if he wrote that after his stroke. Come to that, one cannot help but wonder if he will be strong enough to manage the ceremony. That now is a real marathon in length - first prize ceremony at 4 p.m., then gala dinner which lasts for hours. Great pity if he will not be able to attend and I feel sure that he will not. Now, he has a valid cause, not like that Jelinek woman a couple of years ago who "was terrified of crowds and rather stayed home with her stuffed toys". Yes, it is actually true :wallbash:

Well, Dirac, it pleases me that you found my translation readable. The method I adopted was the following: First I did it line by line, word by word. Some of it became gibberish of course, so with a very light hand I tried to make sense of it. Swedish and English differ in fundamental ways: Swedish for a start does not by a long chalk have such a splendid vocabulary as English. One could say that English with very subtle nuances has three words for every Swedish word. I will just take one example: For different ways of walking you have so many words in English that exactly describes the manner of walking. In Swedish you mainly have "walk" and then you have to add an adjective to describe the manner of walking. As Swedish people generally are very fond of nature, I find the vocabulary fairly rich in that field. But to hit just the right word which will describe an item economically can be quite hard. They say the inuits have over forty words to describe snow, probably necessary for them.

Anyway, I wanted to convey Tranström himself and not impose something like my "interpretation" of his work. Translating is hard work, I cannot say I like it very much and I find it preferable to read an author in the original language. It would never occur to me to read a book written in English translated into Swedish.

But with the Turkish laureate a few years ago, Orhan Pamuk, of course I had no choice. What is most annoying though, and where I feel that you lose very much is when a work has to be translated first into English and then into Swedish. Is there indeed much left of the author's intention in such cases?

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Great pity if he will not be able to attend and I feel sure that he will not. Now, he has a valid cause, not like that Jelinek woman a couple of years ago who "was terrified of crowds and rather stayed home with her stuffed toys". Yes, it is actually true :wallbash:

Pamela, That is a startlingly judgmental comment. I suppose you are not familiar with psychological or emotional pain or the terror and pain of shyness.

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Swedish for a start does not by a long chalk have such a splendid vocabulary as English.

By a long chalk? I don't know if that's a Swedish figure of speech or a misremembered English one, but it's delightful. Technical difficulties make me unable to post smilies, but here, anyhow, are my virtual flowers!

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Great pity if he will not be able to attend and I feel sure that he will not. Now, he has a valid cause, not like that Jelinek woman a couple of years ago who "was terrified of crowds and rather stayed home with her stuffed toys". Yes, it is actually true :wallbash:

Pamela, That is a startlingly judgmental comment. I suppose you are not familiar with psychological or emotional pain or the terror and pain of shyness.

I don't suffer as Jellinek does, but I can easily take her feelings seriously. And, in any case, people don't necessarily become Nobel prize winning authors by having the same preferences as everyone else...

Of course, for an author who would wish to attend the ceremony (which is probably most), it's a shame if they can't.

I should add that I have very much enjoyed being introduced to Tranströmer's poetry on this thread (and elsewhere) as a result of his prize.

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Sorry that puppytreats took took it so badly - however it was not my personal opinion - it was simply what was on radio, television and in the press - everybody thought that she behaved abominably.

Having some inside knowledge of the whole Nobel Prize procedures - my late brother who had served in the Swedish corps diplomatique in Canada told me about it. The laureate is welcomed by a special host for what is called The Nobel Week. That host is Swedish but must have profound knowledge of the country of the laureate, who by the way is allowed to invite a party or family of ten people. If he wants a greater entourage than that, he must pay himself for those people exceeding the stipulated ten. There are no expenses; fares, hotel, food and everything is paid for by the Nobel Foundation. As you can see, the party is very well taken care of and catered for during their stay in Sweden, the host being at hand (day and night as my brother put it).

This is one of the most splendid and well organized events during the year in Sweden.

As many of the recipients are quite elderly and maybe not in perfect health, yet there are very very few who dont attend. There really must be a very good reason to be absent, this year one of the laureates passed away the day before the announcement. Then we have had people who were not allowed to collect their prize for political reasons, f.ex. Solshenitzyn, Pasternak as well if mem. serves. But to stay away on a ridiculous whim - never heard of before. Agoraphobia is not considered a valid excuse. But when it came to pocketing the money, she was neither shy, nor wanting to be left alone. In that respect Sartre was more honest, he didnt take the money as it was against his political principles taking cash from a capitalist foundation.

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That host is Swedish but must have profound knowledge of the country of the laureate, who by the way is allowed to invite a party or family of ten people. If he wants a greater entourage than that, he must pay himself for those people exceeding the stipulated ten. There are no expenses; fares, hotel, food and everything is paid for by the Nobel Foundation.
WOW ! That IS first class hospitality.

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Sorry that puppytreats took took it so badly - however it was not my personal opinion - it was simply what was on radio, television and in the press - everybody thought that she behaved abominably.

Having some inside knowledge of the whole Nobel Prize procedures - my late brother who had served in the Swedish corps diplomatique in Canada told me about it. The laureate is welcomed by a special host for what is called The Nobel Week. That host is Swedish but must have profound knowledge of the country of the laureate, who by the way is allowed to invite a party or family of ten people. If he wants a greater entourage than that, he must pay himself for those people exceeding the stipulated ten. There are no expenses; fares, hotel, food and everything is paid for by the Nobel Foundation. As you can see, the party is very well taken care of and catered for during their stay in Sweden, the host being at hand (day and night as my brother put it).

This is one of the most splendid and well organized events during the year in Sweden.

As many of the recipients are quite elderly and maybe not in perfect health, yet there are very very few who dont attend. There really must be a very good reason to be absent, this year one of the laureates passed away the day before the announcement. Then we have had people who were not allowed to collect their prize for political reasons, f.ex. Solshenitzyn, Pasternak as well if mem. serves. But to stay away on a ridiculous whim - never heard of before. Agoraphobia is not considered a valid excuse. But when it came to pocketing the money, she was neither shy, nor wanting to be left alone. In that respect Sartre was more honest, he didnt take the money as it was against his political principles taking cash from a capitalist foundation.

The professed opinion of media does not validate something. To the contrary, media profit from controversy, real or self-generated. In any event, media do not constitute the arbiter of morality.

Your statement about what constitutes a "valid" excuse also lacks merit. Mental illness is no less "valid" than physical illness. I hope that neither you nor your family suffer its curse.

I doubt she applied for any prize, and she has no obligation to anyone; therefore, she need offer no "excuse", whether "valid" or not. The unconditional offer of money does not create an obligation on the part of a recipient. A gift requires only donor intent and delivery.

Nothing you have written has suggested dishonesty, so to attribute a greater degree of "honest[y]" to another also represents an improper conclusion.

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NPR did a story on the poet (and the fact that most of us in the USA probably would not be familiar with his work). They also had him reading his work and a (simultaneous?) english translation; it was very good and I really enjoyed listening while stuck in traffic. There is probably a transcript or aural version of the story at the NPR website.

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kfw, thank you so much for the flowers! One is right now at my desk - just plucked the last rose from the garden before the frost sets in.

Yes, "by a long chalk". Must confess I do not know much about the expression, it is English, might be a London cockney one. But I remember we used it quite a lot when I was living in London and not only cockneys said it, but also educated people. It is one of those idioms that is untranslatable - if I were to translate that into Swedish and use it in conversation, nobody would understand me. Similarly, there are a lot of idioms in Swedish which translated into English would sound as absolute gibberish. What interests me is, where is the boundary between an idiom and a slang expression? My own views on the subject is that an idiom has a longer life span than a slang expression. And remember that nothing dates you more effectively than outmoded slang words - like you have been living in your own little bubble for the past decade or so:blushing: I try to keep it in mind, but do not always succeed.

No really, puppytreats, I do not feel like arguing with you any more, you have your ideas, I am perfectly entitled to mine. With respects.

If anyone wants to discuss Ms. Jelinek's work with me, they are welcome, I did after all try to plough through a couple of her works. With very limited success.

Couldnt stand the ---- , same with the film maker Lars von Trier's work. No, life is too short :crying:

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kfw, thank you so much for the flowers! One is right now at my desk - just plucked the last rose from the garden before the frost sets in.

Yes, "by a long chalk". Must confess I do not know much about the expression, it is English, might be a London cockney one. But I remember we used it quite a lot when I was living in London and not only cockneys said it, but also educated people. It is one of those idioms that is untranslatable - if I were to translate that into Swedish and use it in conversation, nobody would understand me. Similarly, there are a lot of idioms in Swedish which translated into English would sound as absolute gibberish. What interests me is, where is the boundary between an idiom and a slang expression? My own views on the subject is that an idiom has a longer life span than a slang expression. And remember that nothing dates you more effectively than outmoded slang words - like you have been living in your own little bubble for the past decade or so:blushing: I try to keep it in mind, but do not always succeed.

No really, puppytreats, I do not feel like arguing with you any more, you have your ideas, I am perfectly entitled to mine. With respects.

If anyone wants to discuss Ms. Jelinek's work with me, they are welcome, I did after all try to plough through a couple of her works. With very limited success.

Couldnt stand the ---- , same with the film maker Lars von Trier's work. No, life is too short :crying:

I am not arguing. I just feel an obligation to object to prejudice and injustice.

You are entitled to your opinion, but (a) you stated your were relying on the opinion of the press, not your own and (b)racism, prejudices, and misinformation call for response.

I am sure many people hold the "opinion" that certain races are inferior, or that certain impaired people do not deserve rights or a voice of support. Newspapers may even make certain similar claims under certain political climates. Making such statements on a public board prompts (hopefully) corrective responses.

If you perceive this to be an argument, then I invite you to get the last word. I achieve no satisfaction in these discussions, just a moral imperative to stand up for the unfairly accused, those who suffer from misrepresentation, and the powerless.

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You are entitled to your opinion, but (a) you stated your were relying on the opinion of the press, not your own and (b)racism, prejudices, and misinformation call for response.

I tend to agree with both you and Drew on the Jelinek matter in principle, puppytreats, but please let's be careful about ascribing motives. Also, if we could not draw conclusions here from press accounts, fallible and incomplete as they frequently are, we wouldn't have much to talk about. :)

Anyway, I wanted to convey Tranström himself and not impose something like my "interpretation" of his work. Translating is hard work, I cannot say I like it very much and I find it preferable to read an author in the original language. It would never occur to me to read a book written in English translated into Swedish.

But with the Turkish laureate a few years ago, Orhan Pamuk, of course I had no choice. What is most annoying though, and where I feel that you lose very much is when a work has to be translated first into English and then into Swedish. Is there indeed much left of the author's intention in such cases?

I'm sure it's very hard work and we all thank you for it. I am mostly monolingual myself, so it's not a task I'm likely to undertake, but I can imagine. I think that your goal of conveying Tranström's sensibility is a legitimate one, and it calls to mind Auden's remark about translations - you can't get much from them except the sensibility of the poet. That alone can be most rewarding, however.

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