AFP/ GETTY IMAGES Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer at his home in Stockholm
By Arifa Akbar
Swedish poet who all but lost the power of speech after suffering a stroke more than 20 years ago plans to accept the grandest prize in literature by way of a piano recital.
Tomas Tranströmer, 80, was announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature after the Swedish Academy praised him because, “through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.” The poet, who lost the use of his right arm after the stroke in 1990, is a keen pianist. Swedish musicians have adapted for him compositions designed to be played with one hand.
Neil Astley, the poet’s friend and the founding editor of Bloodaxe, Tranströmer’s British publisher, said the Swede often expressed himself through music, and anticipated a performance at the Nobel ceremony.
“I imagine he’ll be in a wheelchair, and he will speak to people through the piano,” he said. Mr Astley said Tranströmer’s latest poetry collection had sold out within hours of the announcement. More than 300 orders were placed straight away. The writer had previously sold around 4,000 poetry collections in the past 25 years in Britain.
Carol Ann Duffy has been assured David Beckham's boots are on their way
By Arifa Akbar
When the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy struck a deal with David Beckham – she would send him a handwritten poem about his ankle injury if he sent her a pair of his football boots in return – she expected a package to turn up six months ago.
Last week, in an interview on Radio 4, she revealed her frustration with the footballer who had evidently forgotten to post them, pleading: “Can I have the boots by Christmas, please?”
But now, in an interview published in today’s Independent, Duffy appears to have calmed down: “Beckham saw the poem [“Achilles”, about the injury that kept the former captain out of the 2010 World Cup] and got in touch [to] ask if he could have a hand-written copy of it. And I said, ‘Yes, but only if I can have a pair of your boots.’ The boots apparently, are on their way. He’s had the poem.”
When did the modern novel get so long and unwieldy? Sometimes the best things come in small packages, says Arifa Akbar.
Does 'Freedom' justify its 562 pages?
The biggest publishing event of last year saw Jonathan Franzen’s doorstopper, Freedom, garlanded as the “great American novel” by one half of the world and hailed as a modern-day War and Peace by the other. Yet after nine years of gestation and the most fastidious of working methods (the earplugs, the blinds, the disabling of internet portals), one wondered whether, if Franzen had given us something far less Proustian in length, the critical reception would have been quite so breathless. What if he had produced a sleek, 150-page novella? The idea that a work of fiction so short and sweet could gain the same critical attention as a 562-page tome is an unfamiliar one, even though several contemporary novels might have been greatly improved by more rigorous editing….read more
By Arifa Akbar
When the unexpurgated Penguin edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover was finally cleared of obscenity, three decades after DH Lawrence’s death and a highly-publicised trial, it marked a victory for literary freedom. Those who had not already got their hands on a contraband copy rushed to exercise their right to read of Lady Constance and her gamekeeper lover, in flagrante, uttering previously unprintable words. Readers were not the only ones forming a hasty queue. In the decades following November 1960, writers exulted in their new-found Lawrentian rights to express their erotic imaginations before critics began questioning the artistic merits of this modern-day deluge of explicit sex in literary fiction.