Tomas Tranströmer Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Tomas Tranströmer was born on April 15, 1931, in Stockholm, Sweden. His grandfather and other, more distant ancestors were ship pilots, and his father was a journalist. When Tranströmer was a child, his parents were divorced; from that time onward, he had a very close relationship with his mother, whose death, many years later, affected him greatly. From 1960 to 1965, he served as a psychologist at Roxtuna, a prison for juvenile offenders; since 1967, he has lived in Västerås, where, until 1990, he worked with disabled persons. This position allowed him to devote more time to his wife and two daughters, to playing the piano, and especially to writing.

In his early sixties, Tranströmer published memoirs of his early and adolescent years. Here one learns of his formative and familial school experiences, his interests in entomology and natural history, the war, the extreme anxiety that pervaded his life for a brief period, and the influence that museums and libraries have exercised on him.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Tomas Gösta Tranströmer (TRAHNS-trur-mur) is widely regarded as Sweden’s best poet since World War II. He was born to Gösta and Helmy Tranströmer, who divorced when Tomas was only three, leaving him with a strong sense of the absence of a father figure. Tranströmer graduated from the University of Stockholm in 1956, married Monica Blach in 1958, and has raised two daughters. He has maintained a dual career as a psychologist and poet. Tranströmer worked at the Psychological Institute in Stockholm from 1957 to 1959, later worked in a boys’ reformatory in Roxtuna from 1960 to 1965, and subsequently worked as a special consultant and counselor for delinquent boys and people with disabilities in Vaesteraas.

Tranströmer’s career as a poet began when he was only sixteen and was quickly established by his first collection, 17 Dikter, published in 1954 when the poet was only twenty-three. This early work immediately identified Tranströmer as one who loves landscapes and specializes in joining images rarely associated with one another. He and others have called his work surrealistic, introducing the unreal or supernatural in the midst of the seemingly familiar.

Tranströmer’s second work, Hemligheter på vâgen, was inspired by the poet’s travels in the Balkans, Italy, and Turkey and by his experiences with the paintings of Vincent van Gogh and Francisco Goya. With his third volume, Den halvfärdiga himlen, Tranströmer further developed the tensions in his poetry between the positive and the malevolent sides of life. Some of his best poems from this volume are those treating music, such as “Allegro,” “C Major,” and “Nocturne.” His fourth volume, Klanger och spår, continues to develop themes involving travel and music but utilizes looser poetic forms, sometimes shifting to a prose form. His next volume, Night Vision,...

(The entire section is 781 words.)