Tomas Transtromer

“He has been able to breathe life into the most uninspiring realities of modern existence and in this way has significantly broadened the scope of our poetic vision of the world.” – Jaan Kaplinski, from his 1990 nominating statement for Tranströmer

Tomas Tranströmer (born 15 April 1931 in Stockholm) is a Swedish writer, poet and translator, who has sold thousands of volumes in his native country, and whose poetry has been translated into over sixty languages. He has published ten volumes of poetry in Swedish, from 17 dikter (17 Poems; 1954) to For levande och doda (1989; Eng. "For Living and Dead").

Tranströmer’s nominating juror, Estonian poet and philosopher Jaan Kaplinski, said, “In our world that is often so confused by all kinds of ideologies and doctrines, Tranströmer has always remained a politically nonengaged humanist who understands he has no right to forget the sufferings of other people, be it in the West or in the East, but who knows that there are no quick and simple solutions to the grave problems of our time.”

His books of poetry in English include New Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011), The Sorrow Gondola (Green Integer, 2010), The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (New Directions, 2006), The Half-Finished Heaven (Graywolf Press, 2001), New Collected Poems (1997), For the Living and the Dead (1995), Baltics (1975), Windows and Stones (1972), and 20 Poems (1970), among others. In his acceptance speech for the Neustadt Prize in 1990, Tranströmer gave extensive praise to the many translators who “translated my poems because they wanted to.”

Read Kaplinski's nominating statement and Tranströmer's 1990 acceptance speech [PDF temporarily available for free here] from World Literature Today 64, no. 4 (Autumn 1990), 552-553. Available via JSTOR at

1990 Neustadt Jurors and Finalists


Homero Aridjis (Mexico) Östen Sjöstrand (Sweden)
Assia Djebar (Algeria/France) Mohammed Dib (Algeria/France)
Knut Faldbakken (Norway) Rolf Jacobsen (Norway)
Mavis Gallant (Canada/France) Robert Pinget (France)
Vera Gancheva (Bulgaria) Yordan Radichkov (Bulgaria)
George Gömöri (Hungary/England) György Konrád (Hungary)
Richard Howard (USA) Michel Leiris (France)
Jaan Kaplinski (Estonia) Tomas Tranströmer (Sweden)
Sam Selvon (Trinidad/Canada) V. S. Naipaul (Trinidad/England)
Lasse Söderberg (Sweden) Vasko Popa (Yugoslavia)
Xiao Qian (China) Dai Houying (China)