STOCKHOLM, Sweden — The 2011 Nobel Prize in literature was awarded Thursday to Tomas Transtromer of Sweden, whose surrealistic works about the mysteries of the human mind won him wide recognition as the most influential Scandinavian poet of recent decades.
Transtromer's poems are 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.
He is considered a master of metaphor, weaving powerful images into his poems without much embellishment.
A psychologist and avid amateur pianist, Transtromer (Trawn-stroh-mur), 80, suffered a stroke in 1990 that left him half-paralyzed and largely unable to speak, but he continued to write, publishing The Sorrow Gondola in 1996 and the The Great Enigma in 2004. He has since retired from writing.
"He is overjoyed," Anna Tillgren, spokeswoman for Transtromer's publisher Bonniers, told reporters. She said Transtromer had managed to utter two words after learning about the Nobel: "very good."
Peter Englund, 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 is the first Swede to receive the literature prize since Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson shared it in 1974. The last American writer to win a Nobel was Toni Morrison in 1993. The prize comes with an honorarium of about $1.5 million.