by Jaime Grijalba
I was not entirely happy with the choice the people at the Nobel made when they decided to give the most important award in modern literature to peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, mainly due to a bad experience reading some of his early short stories, but that dread was surpassed when I had the chance to read ‘The Time of the Hero’, his first novel, which was first rate and a real treat. I did this because I promised myself that I would read every book he had written before the next nobel prize winner was here. And here I am, with only two reviews done on the subject of Vargas Llosa, and a new Nobel has arrived. I’m so sorry, because the reviews were halted because the book I was supposed to look at (the second novel of Vargas Llosa, called ‘The Green House’) was left at a friend’s house, and due to many events that have happened, involving my forgetfulness and his, I still don’t have it and the result is just two reviews in the wake of a new winner, and that is my excuse. A poor excuse, but what the hell, it’s the truth.
And then today I woke up, knowing that I’ve failed you, but at the same time expecting for the new Nobel prize winner. I went up at 6:45 am to eat my breakfast, and then I slept until 7:35, when I took a shower. When I came back with nothing but a towel on and a lot of sleepyness due to going to bed at almost 2 in the morning (I was working on a presentation I had at 8:30 am that same day) I turned on the TV, expecting to hear news about the Nobel. I spent about 20 minutes hearing half-baked news from CNN Chile (how many news can you have at 8 am), so I left my house to go to my university. I was always looking at the televisions that they have set at all the metro stations, not that I expected that they would interrupt the whole stream of videoclips and day-old news for the Nobel prize winner, but one can hope, right? Then I arrived at the university, it was still early (about 8:20) so I crashed into the sitting room we have at our faculty, which had a TV set with CNN Chile on. And then, as soon as I come in, I see the guys at the studio say the name (or at least try to say it) of the winner of the Literature Nobel Prize. My only reaction was… ‘What?’. Someone, half-asleep, asked who Tomas Transftrömer was, and I just answered the truth: ‘I don’t know’. ‘And it’s from sweden? How can sweden poetry rhyme?’, ‘How do I know?’ was my honest and concerned answer. There I was, standing in a sitting room, staring at a TV that also had no idea who he was, sorrounded by people who had no idea who this poet was, and all I could think of was… poor Murakami, how much time does he need to wait?
The Nobel Prize for Literature given to Tomas Tranströmer was given to him “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”. He only writes poetry. This may be easy, yet at the same time really difficult. I want all the help that I can have in this new adventure, specially when I’m not a fan of poetry. I’m looking for the original publications in his language (not to read in actual swedish, but I mean read the poems that have everyone of his books, not reeditions or ‘best of’ or whatever. I’m specifically talking about his first book, called ’17 Poems’ published in 1954, which is available in spanish, but in a very expensive and international version (it’s published in Spain, and I’d love to have the book as it manages to compile many of his early books in one nice bundle). Anyway, the call is out there, here I have a link for you, an almost entire book which has (surprise, surprise) many of his poems, including the ’17 Poems’ (but not all of them are available to read online, sadly, which would’ve helped a lot): here.
Storm, Tomas Tranströmer
Here the walker suddenly meets the giant
oak tree, like a petrified elk whose crown is
furlongs wide before the September’s ocean
murky green fortress.
Northern storm. The season when rowanberry
clusters swell. Awake in the darkness, listen:
constellations stamping inside their stalls, high
over the treetops.
Anyway, those interested on my reviews on Mario Vargas Llosa books, who will resume if I finish with this author before the next Nobel comes (which seems fairly plausible), you can read them here: ‘The Leaders’ and ‘The Time of the Hero‘.
Next: ’17 Poems’