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The Deleted World
     

The Deleted World

by Tomas Tranströmer, Robin Robertson (Translator)
 

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A short selection of haunting, meditative poems from the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature

Tomas Tranströmer can be clearly recognized not just as Sweden's most important poet, but as a writer of international stature whose work speaks to us now with undiminished clarity and resonance. Long celebrated as a master of the arresting,

Overview

A short selection of haunting, meditative poems from the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature

Tomas Tranströmer can be clearly recognized not just as Sweden's most important poet, but as a writer of international stature whose work speaks to us now with undiminished clarity and resonance. Long celebrated as a master of the arresting, suggestive image, Tranströmer is a poet of the liminal: drawn again and again to thresholds of light and of water, the boundaries between man and nature, wakefulness and dream. A deeply spiritual but secular writer, his skepticism about humanity is continually challenged by the implacable renewing power of the natural world. His poems are epiphanies rooted in experience: spare, luminous meditations that his extraordinary images split open—exposing something sudden, mysterious, and unforgettable.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For decades U.S. poets and those in the know have been talking about Tranströmer, the haunting Swedish poet who’s supposedly been on the Nobel shortlist for years. Now that he’s actually taken this year’s prize, he’s no longer a secret. Readers can choose from several selections of poems with different English translators—from New Directions, Ecco, Graywolf, and others—all of which are pretty good, though this little book rushed out by FSG may be the best introduction, if not the best value dollar per page. U.K. poetry star Robertson offers his lucid versions of 15 poems from throughout Tranströmer’s long career, which began in the ’50s. Tranströmer favors dark, wintry, portentous landscapes that show more than they tell: the chilling and typical “Midwinter” reads, in its entirety, “A blue light/ streams out of my clothes./ Midwinter./ Ringing tambourines of ice./ I close my eyes./ There is a silent world,/ there is a crack/ where the dead/ are smuggled over the border.” Fear and acceptance of death are everywhere in the background—“In the middle of life, death comes/ to take your measurements. The visit/ is forgotten and life goes on. But the suit/ is being sewn on the sly”—but it’s tempered by an observant communication with nature, which offers a kind of company if not solace: “The child’s eyes grow wide in the dark/ and the storm howls for him./ Both love the swinging lamps; both are halfway towards speech.” While readers will certainly be left wanting more pages, the fact that they will is a tribute to Robertson’s clear and deep sympathy with Tranströmer’s world. (Dec.)
From the Publisher

“For decades U.S. poets and those in the know have been talking about Tranströmer, the haunting Swedish poet who's supposedly been on the Nobel shortlist for years. Now that he's actually taken this year's prize, he's no longer a secret. Readers can choose from several selections of poems with different English translators--from New Directions, Ecco, Graywolf, and others--all of which are pretty good, though this little book rushed out by FSG may be the best introduction . . . U.K. poetry star Robertson offers his lucid versions of 15 poems from throughout Tranströmer's long career, which began in the '50s . . . While readers will certainly be left wanting more pages, the fact that they will is a tribute to Robertson's clear and deep sympathy with Tranströmer's world.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“His renderings are more fluid when it comes to English syntax than some translations I've read that may be more accurate but are somewhat stilted . . . Robertson has done justice to the greatest qualities of Tranströmer's poems: their evocative, striking imagery and uncanny metaphorical resonance . . . It's a collection that sparks with an exquisite, awakened awareness of the world.” —Barbara Carey, Toronto Star

“Robin Robertson, himself no mean verse-maker, has taken a small selection from Tranströmer's 11 volumes and rendered them beautifully. And he has done so in a form that maintains the resonance and forceful imagery of the originals, and their engagement with the natural world, as well as providing a nimble introduction . . . Lovely stuff.” —Globe & Mail

“Robertson's fine work comes at an ideal time . . . Tranströmer's world is deeply northern, with scenes of snow, islands in chill waters, clouds and mists. But always, he is really speaking about innerscapes of the human soul . . . Robertson transmits the startle.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374533533
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
12/19/2011
Pages:
64
Sales rank:
1,347,607
Product dimensions:
5.45(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.19(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Deleted World


By Tomas Tranströmer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2006 Robin Robertson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-8612-4



CHAPTER 1

    HÖSTLIG SKÄRGÅRD

    storm

    Plötsligt möter vandraren här den gamla
    jätteeken, lik en förstenad älg med
    milsvid krona framför septemberhavets
    svartgröna fästning.

    Nordlig storm. Det är i den tid när rönnbärs-
    klasar mognar. Vaken i mörkret hör man
    stjärnbilderna stampa i sina spiltor
    högt över trädet.

    kväll – morgon

    Månens mast har murknat och seglet skrynklas.
    Måsen svävar drucken bort över vattnet.
    Bryggans tunga fyrkant är kolnad. Snåren
    dignar i mörkret.

    Ut på trappan. Gryningen slår och slår i
    havets gråstensgrindar och solen sprakar
    nära världen. Halvkvävda sommargudar
    famlar i sjörök.


    AUTUMNAL ARCHIPELAGO

    storm

    Suddenly the walker comes upon the ancient oak: a huge
    rooted elk whose hardwood antlers, wide
    as this horizon, guard the stone-green walls of the sea.

    A storm from the north. It is the time of rowanberries.
    Awake in the night he hears – far above the horned tree –
    the stars, stamping in their stalls.

    evening – morning

    The mast of the moon has rotted, its sail grey with mildew.
    The seagull makes a drunken sweep of the sea, the charred
    chunk of jetty, the heavy undergrowth in the dark.

    On the threshold. Morning beats and beats on the granite
    gates of the sea, and the sun sparkles at the world.
    Half-smothered, the summer gods fumble in the haar.


    OSTINATO

    Under vråkens kretsande punkt av stillhet
    rullar havet dånande fram i ljuset,
    tuggar blint sitt betsel av tång och frustar
    skum över stranden.

    Jorden höljs av mörker som flädermössen
    pejlar. Vråken stannar och blir en stjärna.
    Havet rullar dånande fram och frustar
    skum över stranden.


    OSTINATO

    Under the buzzard's circling point of stillness
    the ocean rolls thundering into the light; blindly chewing
    its straps of seaweed, it snorts up foam across the beach.

    The earth is covered in darkness, traced by bats.
    The buzzard stops and becomes a star. The ocean rolls
    thundering on, blowing the foam away across the beach.


    PARET

    De släcker lampan och dess vita kupa skimrar
    ett ögonblick innan den löses upp
    som en tablett i ett glas mörker. Sedan lyftas.
    Hotellets väggar skjuter upp i himmelsmörkret.

    Kärlekens rörelser har mojnat och de sover
    men deras hemligaste tankar möts
    som när två färger möts och flyter in i varann
    på det våta papperet i en skolpojksmålning.

    Det är mörkt och tyst. Men staden har ryckt närmare
    i natt. Med släckta fönster. Husen kom.
    De står i hopträngd väntan mycket nära,
    en folkmassa med uttrykslösa ansikten.


    THE COUPLE

    They turn out the lamplight, and its white globe
    glimmers for a moment: an aspirin rising and falling
    then dissolving in a glass of darkness. Around them,
    the hotel walls slide like a back-drop up into the night sky.

    Love's drama has died down, and they're sleeping now,
    but their dreams will meet as colours meet
    and bleed into each other
    in the dampened pages of a child's painting-book.

    All around is dark, and silent. The city has drawn in,
    extinguishing its windows. The houses have approached.
    They crowd in close, attentive:
    this audience of cancelled faces.


    ANSIKTE MOT ANSIKTE

    I februari stod levandet still.
    Fåglarna flög inte gärna och själen
    skavde mot landskapet så som en båt
    skaver mot bryggan den ligger förtöjd vid.

    Träden stod vända med ryggen hitåt.
    Snödjupet mättes av döda strån.
    Fotspåren åldrades ute på skaren.
    Under en presenning tynade språket.

    En dag kom någonting fram till fönstret.
    Arbetet stannade av, jag såg upp.
    Färgerna brann. Allt vände sig om.
    Marken och jag tog ett spräng mot varann.


    FACE TO FACE

    In February life stood still.
    The birds refused to fly and the soul
    grated against the landscape as a boat
    chafes against the jetty where it's moored.

    The trees were turned away. The snow's depth
    measured by the stubble poking through.
    The footprints grew old out on the ice-crust.
    Under a tarpaulin, language was being broken down.

    Suddenly, something approaches the window.
    I stop working and look up.
    The colours blaze. Everything turns around.
    The earth and I spring at each other.


    EN VINTERNATT

    Stormen sätter sin mun till huset
    och blåser för att få ton.
    Jag sover oroligt, vänder mig, läser
    blundande stormens text.

    Men barnets ögon är stora i mörkret
    och stormen den gnyr för barnet.
    Båda tycker om lampor som svänger.
    Båda är halvvägs mot språket.

    Stormen har barnsliga händer och vingar.
    Karavanen skenar mot Lappland.
    Och huset känner sin stjärnbild av spikar
    som håller väggarna samman.

    Natten är stilla över vårt golv
    (där alla förklingade steg
    vilar som sjunkna löv i en damm)
    men därute är natten vild!

    Över världen går en mer allvarlig storm.
    Den sätter sin mun till vår själ
    och blåser för att få ton. Vi räds
    att stormen blåser oss tomma.


    A WINTER NIGHT

    The storm puts its mouth to the house
    and blows to get a tone.
    I toss and turn, my closed eyes
    reading the storm's text.

    The child's eyes grow wide in the dark
    and the storm howls for him.
    Both love the swinging lamps;
    both are halfway towards speech.

    The storm has the hands and wings of a child.
    Far away, travellers run for cover.
    The house feels its own constellation of nails
    holding the walls together.

    The night is calm in our rooms,
    where the echoes of all footsteps rest
    like sunken leaves in a pond,
    but the night outside is wild.

    A darker storm stands over the world.
    It puts its mouth to our soul
    and blows to get a tone. We are afraid
    the storm will blow us empty.


    VINTERNS FORMLER

    I

    Jag somnade i min säng
    och vaknade under kölen.

    På morgonen klockan fyra
    då tillvarons renskrapade ben
    umgås med varann kallt.

    Jag somnade bland svalorna
    och vaknade bland örnarna.

    II

    I lyktskenet är vägens is
    glänsande som ister.

    Det är inte Afrika.
    Det är inte Europa.
    Det är ingenstans annat än 'här'.

    Och det som var 'jag'
    är bara ett ord
    i decembermörkrets mun.

    III

    Anstaltens paviljonger
    utställda i mörkret
    lyser som TV-skärmar.

    En dold stämgaffel
    i den stora kölden
    utsänder sin ton.

    Jag står under stjärnhimlen
    och känner världen krypa
    in och ut i min rock
    som i en myrstack.

    IV

    Tre svarta ekar ur snön.
    Så grova, men fingerfärdiga.
    Ur deras väldiga flaskor
    ska grönskan skumma i vår.

    V

    Bussen kryper genom vinterkvällen.
    Den lyser som ett skepp i granskogen
    där vägen är en trång djup död kanal.

    Få passagerare: några gamla och några mycket unga.
    Om den stannade och släckte lyktorna
    skulle världen utplånas.


    WINTER'S CODE

    I

    I fell asleep in my bed
    and woke up under the keel.

    At four in the morning
    life's clean-picked bones
    engage in brittle repartee.

    I fell asleep among the swallows
    and woke among eagles.

    II

    In the lamplight the ice on the road
    gleams like glycerine.

    This is not Africa.
    This is not Europe.
    This is nowhere else but 'here'.

    And that which was 'I'
    is only a word
    in the darkness of December's mouth.

    III

    The asylum pavilions,
    lit up in the night,
    are bright as TV screens.

    A hidden tuning-fork
    in the great cold
    throws out its shivering tone.

    I stand under the starry sky
    and feel the world thrill
    through me, like the pulse
    of ants in an anthill.

    IV

    Three black oaks rear through the snow:
    rough, but nimble-fingered.
    In the spring, their giant bottles
    will froth with green.

    V

    The bus negotiates the winter night:
    a flickering ship in the pine forest
    on a road as narrow and deep as a dead canal.

    Few passengers: some old, some very young.
    If it stopped and switched off its lights
    the world would be deleted.


    ENSAMHET (I)

    Här var jag nära att omkomma en kväll i februari.
    Bilen gled sidledes på halkan, ut
    på fel sida av vägen. De mötande bilarna –
    deras lyktor – kom nära.

    Mitt namn, mina flickor, mitt jobb
    lösgjorde sig och blev kvar tyst bakom,
    allt längre bort. Jag var anonym
    som en pojke på en skolgård omgiven av fiender.

    Mötande trafik hade väldiga ljus.
    De lyste på mig medan jag styrde och styrde
    i en genomskinlig skräck som flöt som äggvita.
    Sekunderna växte – man fick rum där –
    de blev stora som sjukhusbyggnader.

    Man kunde nästan stanna upp
    och andas ut en stund
    innan man krossades.

    Då uppstod ett fäste: ett hjälpande sandkorn
    eller en underbar vindstöt. Bilen kom loss
    och krälade snabbt tvärs över vägen.
    En stolpe sköt upp och knäcktes – en skarp klang – den
    flög bort i mörkret.

    Tills det blev stilla. Jag satt kvar i selen
    och såg hur någon kom genom snöyran
    för att se vad det blev av mig.


    SOLITUDE (I)

    I was nearly killed here, one night in February.
    My car shivered, and slewed sideways on the ice,
    right across into the other lane. The slur of traffic
    came at me with their lights.

    My name, my girls, my job, all
    slipped free and were left behind, smaller and smaller,
    further and further away. I was nobody:
    a boy in a playground, suddenly surrounded.

    The headlights of the oncoming cars
    bore down on me as I wrestled the wheel through a slick
    of terror, clear and slippery as egg-white.
    The seconds grew and grew – making more room for me –
    stretching huge as hospitals.

    I almost felt that I could rest
    and take a breath
    before the crash.

    Then something caught: some helpful sand
    or a well-timed gust of wind. The car
    snapped out of it, swinging back across the road.
    A signpost shot up and cracked, with a sharp clang,
    spinning away in the darkness.

    And it was still. I sat back in my seat-belt
    and watched someone tramp through the whirling snow
    to see what was left of me.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Deleted World by Tomas Tranströmer. Copyright © 2006 Robin Robertson. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author


Tomas Tranströmer (1933-2015) received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2011. His books of poetry, which have been translated into sixty languages, include The Deleted World and The Half-Finished Heaven, and he received numerous international honors during his lifetime. Tranströmer, a trained Swedish psychologist, worked for years in state institutions with juveniles and the disabled, and his work was often praised for the inventive ways in which it examined the mind. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize, the Swedish Academy stated that "through his condensed, translucent images, he gave us fresh access to reality."

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