He’s a Swedish poet, and the Chinese know it

  translator Bei Dao



By Yang Guang, May 1, 2021

Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer is arguably the best-known Nobel literature laureate in Chinese poetry circles.Tranströmer has visited the country twice since 1984 and established close friendships with some of his Chinese counterparts, including his first Chinese translator, “Misty School” poet Bei Dao, and his current Chinese translator, poet Li Li. Two days before the Dec 10, 2011 Nobel award ceremony at Stockholm Concert Hall, poets, translators and college students in Beijing gathered at Renmin University of China for a reading of Tranströmer ‘s poetry. More than 40 of his works were recited in Chinese, Swedish, and English.

Tranströmer was born in 1931 and published his first poetry collection in 1954.He suffered a stroke in 1990, which left him partially paralyzed and hardly able to speak. He continued to write and publish poetry until 2004. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in October for creating “fresh access to reality” through his “condensed translucent images”, the judges say.

Bei Dao remembers his interactions with the Swedish poet in his essay “Blue House” (which is the name of Tranströmer’s country home). He says he first heard of the Nordic wordsmith in 1983 when a cultural attache at the Swedish embassy in Beijing handed him Goran Malmqvist’s English translation of Tranströmer’s poetry collection The Wild Square. The attache also gave Bei Dao a letter from Malmqvist, a Swedish Sinologist, member of the Swedish Academy and, a senior judge of the Nobel literature prize. In the letter, Malmqvist asked Bei Dao if he could translate Tranströmer into Chinese. Bei Dao translated and published six pieces in World Literature magazine in 1984. Tranströmer first visited China in 1985 at the invitation of the Beijing Foreign Studies University. For the Chinese audience he attended a  poetry seminar on Swedish writers, visited the Great Wall, and traveled to Shanghai. He started composing his poem “Streets in Shanghai “ after returning to  Sweden. Bei Dao remembers hearing him read fragments of the poem when he visited Sweden in 1985. The poem was included in the 1989 Tranströmer collection For the Living and the Dead, after four years of revision.


                                 translator Li Li

Tranströmer visited China for the second time in 2001 -this time in a wheelchair after his stroke and medical illness – when he gave a reading at Peking University. He also traveled to Yunnan province’s capital Kunming, where a cultural gallery- cum-cafe is named after him .Li, who has translated all of Tranströmer’s 200 odd poems, first read the Swedish poet’s work when he was studying Swedish at Beijing Foreign Studies University in the early 1980s. Of Tranströmer’s poetry Li says, “there are but a few modern poets who can pen poems in a fashion as succinct and accurate as Tranströmer.”  In a telephone call from Tranströmer’s wife, Monica, to Li on his 50th birthday in January, both Tranströmers congratulated him on the phone for his translation pf the poems. Over the years, literary exchanges between China and Sweden have been expanding.Earlier this month, a Swedish Writers’ Union delegation visited Beijing. Five Swedish writers engaged in a series of cultural exchange events. .Eva Ekeroth, Cultural Representative of the Swedish Embassy in China, says the Chinese Writers’ Association have agreed to host another Swedish writers’ forum in the future.

Nobel Prize in Literature 2020 awarded to Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”


The 2020 Nobel Prize Diploma

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Glück in Cambridge

The American poet Louise Glück was born 1943 in New York and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Apart from her writing she is a professor of English at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. She made her debut in 1968 with Firstborn, and was soon acclaimed as one of the most prominent poets in American contemporary literature. She has received several prestigious awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize (1993) and the National Book Award (2014). Louise Glück has published twelve collections of poetry and volumes of essays on poetry. All are characterized by a striving for clarity. Childhood and family life, the close relationship with parents and siblings, is a thematic that has remained central with her. In her poems, the self listens for what is left of its dreams and delusions, and nobody can be harder than she in confronting the illusions of the self. But even if Glück would never deny the significance of the autobiographical background, she is not to be regarded as a confessional poet. Glück seeks the universal, and in this she takes inspiration from myths and classical motifs, present in most of her works. The voices of Dido, Persephone and Eurydice – the abandoned, the punished, the betrayed – are masks for a self in transformation, as personal as it is universally valid.

With collections like The Triumph of Achilles (1985) and Ararat (1990) Glück found a growing audience in USA and abroad. In Ararat three characteristics unite to subsequently recur in her writing: the topic of family life; austere intelligence; and a refined sense of composition that marks the book as a whole. Glück has also pointed out that in these poems she realized how to employ ordinary diction in her poetry. The deceptively natural tone is striking. We encounter almost brutally straightforward images of painful family relations. It is candid and uncompromising, with no trace of poetic ornament. It reveals much about her own poetry when in her essays Glück cites the urgent tone in Eliot, the art of inward listening in Keats or the voluntary silence in George Oppen. But in her own severity and unwillingness to accept simple tenets of faith she resembles more than any other poet, Emily Dickinson. Louise Glück is not only engaged by the errancies and shifting conditions of life, she is also a poet of radical change and rebirth, where the leap forward is made from a deep sense of loss.

🔗 Link to: Nobel Prize Gluck

American Poet Louise Gluck Wins 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm, Sweden

Louise Elisabeth Glück born April 22, 1943 is an American poet and essayist. She won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, whose judges praised “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”. Her other awards include the Pulitzer Prize, National Humanities Medal, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Bollingen Prize. From 2003 to 2004, she was Poet Laureate of the United States. Glück is an adjunct professor and Rosenkranz Writer in Residence at Yale University. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Kyrie” by Tomas Tranströmer

Created and produced by Amrendra Pandey in Bengaluru, India

Amrendra Pandey is a research scholar and PhD in Molecular Physics at Raman Research Institute, India.

facebook-arrow-symbol2 Visit Pandey’s Vimeo website


At times my life suddenly opens its eyes in the dark.
A feeling of masses of people pushing blindly
through the streets, excitedly, toward some miracle,
while I remain here and no one sees me.

It is like the child who falls asleep in terror
listening to the heavy thumps of his heart.
For a long, long time till morning puts his light in the locks
and the doors of darkness open. 

"Kyrie" from The Half-Finished Heaven: Selected Poems, 
by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly, Graywolf Press; 2001. 

Copyright © 2001 by Robert Bly.

The Lion Publishing Group Announces Launch of The Official Website of Jorge Carrera Andrade (Ecuador)


Excerpt from “An Afternoon with Tranströmer in Stockholm”

I mention Century of the Death of The Rose: The Selected Poems of Jorge Carrera Andrade, this gift book to Tomas Tranströmer only in that his readings in world literature were more extensive than one might imagine. In the 1960s, when books from different parts of the world traveled slowly, it might seem strange a Swedish writer would know of a writer writing in Spanish from a distant country like Ecuador. Ecuador is a small country in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Galápagos Islands and Pacific Ocean to the west. Remarkably, Tomas found access to the poetry of Jorge Carrera Andrade in an anthology, Modern European Poetry, edited by Willis Barnstone (New York: Bantam Books, 1966), which was available at that time in Europe. Carrera Andrade had already lived on and off for decades in France as Chancellor of the Ecuadorian consulate in Marseilles, Consul General in Le Havre, Ambassador to France in Paris, and principal contributor to management at UNESCO, also in Paris. With a French wife and fluent in French, as well as a translator of French poet Pierre Reverdy into Spanish for book publication, Carrera Andrade was seen by some in French and global literary circles as more European than Latin American. Carrera Andrade in Europe was Ecuadorian and remained so throughout his life in every country he traveled to in service to his native country as a diplomat and writer.

                                                                                           Steven Ford Brown

Jorge Carrera Andrade (1903-1978), Ecuadorian poet, historian, author, former Ambassador and Official Representative and member to The United Nations in New York City, is recognized with Jorge Luis Borges, Vicente Huidobro, Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, Nicanor Parra, Octavio Paz and César Vallejo, as among the first South American posts to rise to international prominence in the Twentieth Century.

🔗 Link to:

The Official Jorge Carrera Andrade Website