Good for Göran!

Rika Lesser, his excellent translator, has just let us know that “the sixth nomination was the charm,” i.e. that it has just been announed that The Nordic Council Literature Prize 2006 goes to the Swedish author Göran Sonnevi for his poetry collection The Ocean— & it couldn’t have happened to a better poet. Here’s the official bumpff:

Literature Prize to Göran Sonnevi

The Nordic Council Literature Prize 2006 goes to the Swedish author Göran Sonnevi for his poetry collection ”The Ocean”. The DKK 350,000 prize will be awarded at a ceremony during the annual Session of the Nordic Council in Copenhagen in the autumn.

The Adjudicating Committee for the Nordic Council Literature Prize has decided to award the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2006 to Göran Sonnevi for his poetry collection The Ocean.

“The Ocean is awash with words. You can submerge into them and let them swallow you up. It spans a life and a poetry which is still alive, is not over yet, and is still searching. Sonnevi writes poetry with an intense necessity, in constant dialogue with social and political events as well as dealing with personal issues like guilt and responsibility, the committee writes.

These were the words of the Swedish member of the committee, Astrid Trotzig, when the collection was nominated:

“The poems seem to be a kind of day of reckoning for Sonnevi’s political convictions, a confrontation with the Left.” She also sees The Ocean as an image for utopia, for democracy, for the will make the right choices and do the right things.

“Even though death is so palpably tangible in the collection, there is a tendency for it to be surrounded by a glow, not necessarily a rosy pink one, but one that conceals the reality of death, its brutal and nasty face. Perhaps I just like to be reminded that the real power of the sea is not a metaphor but is life and death,” Trotzig added.

The Nordic Council Literature Prize 2005 has been awarded since 1962.

You can read his work in Rika Lesser’s translation in A Child Is Not a Knife : Selected Poems of Göran Sonnevi, Winner of the 1993 Translation Prize of the American -Scandinavian Foundation, published by Princeton University Press.

Here is a section from Sonnevi’s poem Mozart’s Third Brain, in Lesser’s version, from the Words without Borders site:


Democracy's secret In free, general elections, with secret ballots

There, too, is music's concealment, its inaccessibility, eye

to eye Where coercive power, over the other, does not

exist This is music's secret When music moves,

sovereign, in time, its own time For that is what defines it

South African faces, in the first free election The dignity,

the joy breaking through, the laughter, the tears And the wave

of warmth As if the terrorist bombs, the violence, did not even exist

Amandla! The strength to do what? The power to do what? We shall see —

There's the fear that disappointment will come Also inside

myself But that is not I Objective music sounds

for a moment That which is history If that summary word has

any meaning whatsoever

I have been here before When in the city park in Lund

I took off my hat on the first of May, when we sang

the Internationale, at a Social-Democratic gathering, in the early

60s A warm rain fell on my head New, light-green leaves

That I, too, grasped democracy's secret The unification of

fellowship and sovereignty Respect for the worth of every

human being Later another kind of transparency came, the blinding

Every moment democracy must be won anew As if

it were always indefensible, defensively As if it just

existed as light actively moving outward For a short time it can eliminate

violence But violence can grow overpowering As can the violence of others against others

This is no excuse Worth itself is always obliterated by murder

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