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For the Living and the Dead

Transtromer, Tomas

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ISBN 10: 0880014369 / ISBN 13: 9780880014366
Published by Ecco, Hopewell, NJ, 1995
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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0880014369 8vo - over 7?" - 9?" tall The dust jacket has light edge wear, is lightly rubbed and the dust jacket is in a Mylar type protector. Bookseller Inventory # 025642

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Bibliographic Details

Title: For the Living and the Dead

Publisher: Ecco, Hopewell, NJ

Publication Date: 1995

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good-

About this title


With this new volume of poetry, Tomas Transtromer once again demonstrates his gift for capturing and grounding the elusive, luminous details of our modern world. As its title suggests, For the Living and the Dead works to bridge the space between those real and unreal elements of life, suggesting that a surprising, redemptive cohesion can exist within a universe of opposing forces.

Transtromer has referred to his poems as "meeting places," with "their intent to make a sudden connection between aspects of reality that conventional languages and outlooks ordinarily keep apart. Large and small details of the landscape meet, divided cultures and people flow together in a work of art. . ." People and objects alike are given a certain weightiness, their presence filled with a potential carefully measured by the poet's eye and quietly attested to by his language. In "Vermeer," "The airy sky has taken its place leaning against the wall. /It is like a prayer to what is empty./ And what is empty turns its face to us/ and whispers/ 'I am not empty, I am open.'"

This volume combines Transtromer's recent poetry with a prose memoir of his childhood in Sweden, written in the same careful, unsentimental voice for which he is so beloved. Through this memoir the author reveals himself as a curious, sensitive child, interested in archeology and insects, terrified of school and his authoritarian teachers.

Characterized by the insight and integrity we have come to expect from his work, For the Living and the Dead confirms Tomas Transtromer as one of the most significant living poets writing in any language.


The first volume by Tomas Transtromer in almost a decade, For the Living and the Dead includes an unusual bonus: a prose memoir about the poet's childhood, which goes some distance to explain why he became an adolescent psychologist. In other respects, however, the collection is of a piece with Transtromer's earlier work. Why, he seems to ask, are words so sadly inadequate to convey our meaning to others? His solution in the face of this inadequacy is to merge the intimate lyric--as familiar in its tone as a personal letter--with the most stringent economies of language.

It has been said that Transtromer's work comes across well in translation because of its striking imagery. This is partly true, but he has no less firm a grasp on musical structure, cadence, and pacing. All these qualities are present in "Grief Gondola No. 2," translated by Robert Bly. An homage to Liszt, the poem resembles a musical composition, complete with theme, variations, and coda: "The heavily loaded gondola carries their lives, two return tickets and a one-way.... The heavily loaded gondola carries life, it is simple and black."

Transtromer is not a poet of the everyday, but one who needs a rupture of routine to steal his glimpse into another world. The poems are urgent encounters in which Transtromer seems to be in constant transit. Most often he depicts himself as a passenger, and an invisible one: "The carp in the pond are always moving, they swim while they sleep, / they are an example for the faithful: always in motion." But when the poet can enter into a communion with his subject--including, ultimately, the fellow-traveling carp in "Streets in Shanghai"--he persuades the reader that along with seeing, he has been seen as well. --Mark Rudman

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