Tomas Tranströmer

Sigrid Rausing

Photo by T Buchtele.

2011. I am having lunch with my parents. Sea bass and nursery cauliflower cheese; it’s a poignant combination. We talk about Sweden; my childhood and the childhood of my children. We trace in detail the shortcut between my grandfather’s house and ours; the empty back roads, dirt roads. Grey and solitary roe deer jumping into the woods, slinking foxes and hares. I remember a sunken grassy field, mist hovering mysteriously. There, my father always rehearsed with us the famous poem ‘Näcken’, reminded by the mist of the line about the evening when the elves are dancing on the meadow.

We trace the road together. My father remembers it more vividly than my mother; it is his road. I am overcome with nostalgia at this lunch. My throat is aching with tears; I try not to cry.

As I step back into the Sussex sun, I check my Blackberry and see that Tomas Tranströmer won the Nobel Prize for literature, an announcement that is perfectly in tune with my mood. No poet expresses better the drift between now, then, and eternity; the sadness at the heart of nostalgia. No poet expresses better the relationship between humans and the natural world. The black and melancholy seas, the drifting seagulls, the oaks and elks, the storms, rowanberries, the moon and stars, the well, salt, and wolves are agents rather than background; they are what the world is, as much as we are. It’s dark, and thoughtful. It is, also, bleakly intelligent.

This year he turned eighty. He can barely speak after a stroke some twenty years ago, but he still writes. We congratulate him.

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Granta Audio: Lavinia Greenlaw