We are at a party which doesn’t love us

Yesterday was big day in the small but proud literary world of Sweden. One of the most loved and translated poets today, Tomas Tranströmer, finally won the Nobel Price in literature. Poet nerds across the country danced in the streets and the head of culture at the Swedish Public Service Television cried live on TV. About time, was the initial reaction here in the north. The Guardian also seems to approve. He had after all been on the shortlist for almost twenty years.

I do not personally have a very close relationship to his work. I freely admit to being pretty uneducated in the realm of poetry in general. I do try and fix that by making my way through From a Terrace in Prague which the magnificent dancer/poetry editor of the Prague Post Stephan Delbos (who edited it) gracefully handed me during a recent visit to the city. The times I have come across Tranströmer, and trust me everyone in Sweden has, I’ve always liked it though.

In a TV-show I saw yesterday, after cancelling floorball playing to instead have some wine (I know, wannabe a poet alarm is ringing loudly) in front of the literature program Babel, one of the members of the Nobel Price jury said that one of the great aspects of his writing is that he expands the ordinary world into something magical. After hearing some Swedish actors reading his poetry last night I must agree, there is something very familiar in some of the settings he chooses, but the metaphors and brisk jumps from reality into fantasy is extraordinary in their simplicity. Here is a favorite I’ve come across. The first sentence is magical.

BELOW FREEZING

We are at a party which doesn’t love us. Finally the party lets the mask fall and shows what it is: a shunting station for freight cars. In the fog cold giants stand on their tracks. A scribble of chalk on the car doors.

One can’t say it aloud, but there is a lot of repressed violence here. That is why the furnishings seem so heavy. And why it is difficult to see the other thing present: a spot of sun that moves over the house walls and over the unaware forest of flickering faces, a biblical saying never let down: “Come unto me, for I am as full of contradictions as you”

I work the next morning in a different town. I drive there in a hum through the dawning hour which resembles a dark blue cylinder. Orion hangs over the frost. Children stand in a silent clump, waiting for the school bus, the children no one prays for. The light grows as gradually as our hair.

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