My Dinner with Tomas

I was interested to learn this week that the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer has been made this year’s Nobel Laureate of Literature. I met him at the Adelaide Literary Festival in 1982, and one evening we had dinner together. My Swedish was non-existent — his English was slightly better, so we spoke in English. Communication was not easy, but I liked him. Although I had not then (and have not since) read any of his poetry, one or two people at the festival had, and said he was an excellent lyrical poet.

I mention this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, one does not get to meet and then name-drop many Nobel Laureates (although my old pal Salman must surely be waiting in line, for his highly praised but verbose and to me unenjoyable novels). Secondly, one of the few topics of conversation during that awkward mealtime meeting concerned whatever it was I was working on at that time, which happened to be the early stories of the Dream Archipelago. Mr Tranströmer told me that he lived in an archipelago, close to Stockholm. I have discovered this week that one of his best-liked poems, and the title of one of his collections, is ‘The Dream Archipelago’.