Ah, well. De gustibus non est disputandum.
Tomas Transtromer, the 80-year-old poet, became the first Swedish laureate since 1974. The Nobel committee gave Transtromer the award “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.” He is the first poet to take the $1.5 million prize since Polish poet Wisława Szymborska in 1996. The Associated Press called Transtromer a “perennial favorite,” and indeed he has ranked high in the betting odds in each of the last several years. The AP also noted that Transtromer suffered a stroke in 1990 that left him half-paralyzed but that he has continued to write. A number of collections of his poetry have been published in translation. Here are a few:
Bonus Link: Solitude (I) by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Robertson
Bring Up the Bodies author Hilary Mantel, Ladbrokes’s 6/4 favorite for this year’s award, has won her second Man Booker Prize in three years. This is the third time in eight years that the favorite has won the award (Wolf Hall was one of the others).
In our Most Anticipated Books post for the first half of 2012, Sonya Chung said of Bring Up the Bodies:
Those of us who gobbled up Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall eagerly await the release of its sequel, the ominously-titled Bring Up the Bodies. In Wolf Hall, we saw the operatic parallel rise of both Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn in the court of Henry VIII. In Bring Up the Bodies, Anne’s failure to produce a male heir, and Henry’s eternally wandering attentions, present Cromwell with the challenge of his career: protecting the King, eliminating Anne, and preserving his own power base. How we loved to hate Anne in Wolf Hall; will her destruction at the hands of the king and his chief minister win our sympathies? If anyone can effect such a complication of emotional investment, Mantel can.
Mantel was also recently profiled by Larissa MacFarquhar for The New Yorker, and you can read multiple excerpts from her latest work online thanks to the New York Review of Books, Parade, Macmillan, and The Telegraph. Also, you can check out reviews and excerpts from the five other titles on the Booker shortlist over here.
This year’s “Genius grant” winners have been announced. The MacArthur grant awards $500,000, “no strings attached” to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Alongside, scientists, artists and scholars are some newly minted geniuses with a literary focus. This year’s literary geniuses are:
Readers of the New Yorker will be familiar with Peter Hessler’s unique coverage of China, where he lived as much like a local as any outsider might be expected to. While most journalism out of China, a country that seems to be capturing our fascination more and more with every passing year, focuses on the economic might and the “otherness” of the place, Hessler has written compellingly about day-to-day life in China and portrayed its people’s hopes and concerns in a way that feels universal. His work on China is collected in Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China, River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, and Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip.
Kay Ryan, one of two poets to be hailed by the MacArthur Foundation this year, was the 16th Poet Laureate of the United States. Her first major work, according to MacArthur, was 1985’s Strangely Marked Metal, and she won the Pulitzer this year for The Best of It: New and Selected Poems. The Paris Review interviewed her in 2009.
A. E. Stallings is the other poet (see Hapax) getting recognition from MacArthur this year, though she’s also well known as a translator (see her translation of Lucretius’s The Nature of Things. An interview with Stallings in the Cortland Review.