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The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems Paperback – October 17, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The major contemporary poet of Scandinavia, and a perennial Nobel Prize candidate (so rumor has it), Tranströmer and his compact, sometimes grim lyricism have long enjoyed a serious following in the United States. This version from the Scot Fulton (whose first Tranströmer selection appeared in 1987) contains everything Tranströmer has published in book form. Tranströmer's preferred land- and seascapes, drawn from the "spruce-clad coastland" of his native Sweden, have not changed much over his 50-year career: flat seas and frosty storms, swarming birds and contrapuntally beautiful summers, from which "society's dark hull drifts further and further away." His forms, however, have varied impressively: Sapphic stanzas, haiku, imagist lyric, prose sketches and several-page sequences all speak to one another. A clear competitor to Bly's well-received The Half-Finished Heaven (2001), this more comprehensive collection concludes with the rarely seen short poems of Tranströmer's recent years. Some will note political undercurrents ("The language marches in step with the executioners./ Therefore we must get a new language"), yet Tranströmer's dominant moods are almost warily inward-turning while given to hope: "I find myself in the deep corridor/ that would have been dark," the poet declares, "if my right hand wasn't shining like a torch." (Oct.)
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About the Author

Robin Fulton, a Scottish poet and longtime resident of Norway, has been translating Tranströmer for over thirty-five years.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Second Printing edition (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780811216722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811216722
  • ASIN: 0811216721
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How can you write about a poet without quoting? And if he has already achieved such extreme compression of ideas as 2011 Nobelist Tomas Tranströmer has, what can more words add? So I will try to use his own words as much as possible, starting with a complete poem, "Eagle Rock," from his last published collection (The Great Enigma, 2004):

Behind the vivarium glass
the reptiles

A woman hangs up washing
in the silence.
Death is becalmed.

In the depths of the ground
my soul glides
silent as a comet.

How unexpected is that word "comet," a moving body of light in the heavens, challenging the below-ground dark of death! This from a man in his seventies, robbed of the power of speech by a stroke some dozen years before. The brief poems from this last period have not been published in English before this volume, which shows the poet's development from young adulthood to old age. The image of the comet returns again in the book's final section, a prose memoir from 1993 describing his childhood and adolescence, thus bringing the life-cycle full circle: "My life. Thinking these words, I see before me a streak of light... a comet." After talking about youth -- the bright dense head of the comet -- he goes on: "Further back, the comet thins out -- that's the longer part, the tail. It becomes more and more sparse, but also broader. I am now far out in the comet's tail, I am sixty as I write this." The image of racing time returns, as most of his images do, in another poem, "A Page of the Nightbook" (1996): "A period of time / a few minutes long / fifty-eight years wide.
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Format: Paperback
Tomas Tranströmer is a Swedish poet who is one of the strongest and most frequently honored artists of the time. Robin Fulton has translated and curated the bulk of Tranströmer's published poems in this magnificent book THE GREAT ENIGMA: NEW COLLECTED POEMS and it is a rare treat. In one tome are some of the most moving conversations with and about nature this reader has ever read. Tranströmer's ability to alter the landscape of the sea and the cliffs, the islands and havens, with an imagination that defies comparison: it is a staggering achievement.

Able to succeed in both the very short and the epic form, he finds those niches in our psyches and makes them into words we could never generate. 'It's spring and the air is very strong. I have graduated from

the university of oblivion and am as empty-handed as the shirt

on the clothesline.' Perhaps it is his training and practice as a psychologist that allows his entry into our heads the way few other poets can achieve. A solid (yet one of many equally powerful) examples would be the following 'Sailor's Yarn':

'There are bare winter days when the sea is kin to mountain

country, crouching in grey plumage, a grief minute blue,

long hours with waves like pale lynxes vainly seeking

hold in the beach gravel.

On such a day wrecks might come from the sea searching

for their owners, settling in the town's din, and drowned

crews blow landward, thinner than pipe smoke.

(The real lynxes are in the north, with sharpened claws

and dreaming eyes. In the north, where day lives in

a mine both day and night.
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When I first learned that Poet Tomas Transtromer was this year's Nobel Laureate in literature, I was both ecstatic and perplexed--the former because I had another opportunity to read and to respond to what the literary community regaled as this year's crowning achievement, and the latter because I had never heard of him even though I have been reading, writing, and teaching literature most of my adult life.

If you do not remember, last year's winner was Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian writer whose historical fiction novel Feast of the Goat--a story about the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic--set my heart ablaze with his ability to describe poignant historical events. My only minor critique was that his style and content sounded reminiscent of Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

With Tomas Transtromer, there is no real comparison. He has been by far the most original, the most satisfying, and the most complete modern poet (he probably is upset that I have called him modern and a poet!) I have encountered. What is even more impressive about him is that literature has never been his field of study (that would be history, psychology, and amazingly geography)even though he has been writing prodigiously for the last forty years. It is truly fortuitous that the rest of the world now has the opportunity to enter this "silent rebel's mind," for we can benefit from his poetry in so many capacities.

An amateur compared to those who have followed Transtromer's life and works, my prosody may likely sound frenetic for the simple reason that my training has been in English, and, honestly, that is a slight limitation since Transtromer purposely tries to be an atypical poet.
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