Friday, March 27, 2015

Why I read Tomas Tranströmer

Picture taken on October 6, 2011 shows Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer (L), winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature, and his wife Monica during a press conference held at the entrance at their house in Stockholm. Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer, who won the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature, has died at the age of 83, his publishing house Bonniers said on March 27, 2015. Photo AFP-LEHTIKUVA

During my university days I was familiar with very few Scandinavian literary voices including Hans Christin Andersson from Denmark, Henrik Ibsen from Norway,
August Strindberg from Sweden.

On April 10, 2005, there was a poetry reading in Stockholm. A Bengali translator Liakat Hossain read my poem in Bengali and Swedish translation. Tomas Tranströmer was the chief guest to the event. A report was sent to a newspaper in Dhaka. The paper published it along with Tranströmer’s photo.

Afterwards, I got a mail from the translator concerned and he wrote some many good words about the great Swedish poet.

In 2006, I got a scholarship from Norwegian government to translate Henrik Ibsen’s poems and an assignment from a theatre company to translate his play The Lady from the Sea. At that time some of my senior fellow poets, did ask me, ‘Have you read Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer? I responded, ‘Not yet, but I am familiar with the name.’ It made me search his books in Dhaka’s bookshops. I managed to collect a book of Scandinavian poetry in Bengali translations where I found some of his poems. I was disappointed with the translations. I decided to read him in English. I could not manage to find his poems in English in Dhaka.

Later on in September 2006, I was on a short visit to Stockholm on an invitation from the Swedish Writers’ Union. That time I tried to collect his poems in English, but failed. One day the deputy head of Swedish Embassy in Dhaka invited me for coffee at his office and gifted me the complete works of Tranströmer in English translation by Robin Fulton.

Reading the first line from his first poem, ‘Prelude’ ‘Waking up is a parachute jump from dreams’…I found the maddening power in making image. That makes me run to finish the book, as if I were longing for those poems.

Now I can read him in Swedish. I am a student of Ibsen’s literature and of Tranströmers. I usually present Ibsen as saying, Ibsen is the miniature presentation of Norway’s history, culture, life, nature and landscape. Today let me say so is Tomas Trnströmer in case of Sweden. One can find all seasons, smells and images of nature, landscapes of Baltic regions, pains and pleasures in life in Tranströmer’s poetry. Beyond this fact, to be honest Tranströmer more an international voice than to be a Swede when I read him.

Today he is the most familiar and accepted poet being translated in some sixty or more languages. I do not have information if there is any poet in the world to mention at that level.

If we look back into the essay ‘Tradition and individual talent’ written by British poet T.S. Eliot, we can have little idea to realize the mastery in the poetry of Tranströmer.

Reading Tranströmer in Bengali, English and Swedish, I would like to salute the master voice in world poetry who showed how poetry becomes language of mind beyond border.

In Summer 2009, I was introduced to my Uppsala friends on the occasion of Swedish poet Magnus Ringgren’s 60th birthday. I also met my friend Swedish poet Bo Gustavsson on that occasion. He just started to discuss pointing a question, ‘Do we have a strong tradition in Swedish poetry’? That was mid night. We needed to say good night. I would like to supplement to my friend Bo Gustavsson as saying: Beginning in the eighth century through first literary rudiment Rök Ruenston, today Swedish poetry is the strong tradition comparing that in any language. Tranströmer is the gateway to that world of beauties today.

When a child cries or laughs, it does need to explain or interpret, it is the expression of mind. One can have this expression in the child, so is Tranströmer’s poetry. His poetry reaches millions of minds crossing borders from the north till south and encountering west to east. An innocent child smiles over the face of a great philosopher, I see a master builder of images, composer of musicality in the use of animating words, meeting the spontaneity in the making of poetry. If we remember Wordsworth’s words…spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, I am proud to pronounce the name ‘Tomas Tranströmer’.

One day, one my friend did ask me, ‘Have you seen the King or made a visit to his palace? I responded as saying ‘No, but I met with Tomas Tranströmer’ I am proud of him.

Hope your best my king in your next kingdom where God was longing for your metaphors. Stay in peace Tranströmer.

Notes: Click here to know more about the writer

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Shalbon Bihar

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