The object of this paper is to describe the reception in France of the works of the Swedish poetand 2011 Nobel Prize Laureate Tomas Tranströmer and to discuss plausible interpretations of the fact that, whereas the French – with certain exceptions – reacted to Tranströmer’s being chosen as a winner with either indifference or hostility, the rest of the world, including Sweden, the U.S.A, China, Japan, and Europe reacted with enthusiasm. The poet’s work having been translated into over sixty different languages is a clear indication of its world-wide popularity, as is the support from significant international personalities in the world of poetry, like Wisława Szymborska, Adonis, Robert Bly, Seamus Heaney, or Bei Dao, to mention just a few.Two hypotheses are presented in the paper to account for the greatly diverging patterns of reception observed. Both are being discussed at some length. The first of them concerns the quality of the translation, the merits and defects of which are scrutinized as for parameters like versification and metric form, alliterations, repetitions, semantic errors, metaphors, metonymies,poetic humour, and referentiality of denominations connected with culture and topography. My conclusion being that in spite of certain weaknesses found in Jacques Outin’s version of Tranströmer’s Collected Works – which is the only translation available so far – this is not enough to explain the poet’s reception in France. The second one concerns what he talks about in his poems; in short, various aspects of his poetic universe. An important characteristic of this poetry is the fact that most, if not all, poems start from a definite point in time and space, often located in the Stockholm archipelago where the poet’s ancestors were born and where the poet himself has spent most of his summer holidays since he was a boy. Thus, the reader is frequently confronted, on the one hand, with magic pictures of a typically Swedish landscape, on the other with sensations of an existential or metaphysical character, intertwined with such physical descriptions. It could be, that the combination of details from the flora and the fauna and the landscape with mystic experience is simply too much for a French mentality of today,impregnated as it is with intellectualism in general and a Cartesian type of rationalism. However,the problem remains to be further investigated!
Strömstad: Strömstad Akademi , 2014. , 24 p.