Consolation and Empathy in the Religious Worldview of Tomas Tranströmer

Staffan Olofsson


The poems of the Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer has an introspective quality which alternates intangible between things and events from the exterior world and events from man’s inner life. He constantly delves on what it means to be a human being in the world of today and regards insight into spiritual aspects of life as a survival strategy for man, on an individual as well as on a collective level, and something that brings true consolation. In the poetical world of Tranströmer humans are not only rational and social beings but also spiritu- al and existential beings, and without the latter no authentic life exists. The emphasis in my presentation is on the performa- tive force of Tranströmer’s poems for creating consolation and empathy, and the depiction of the religious worldview, conveyed by his poems. I have used the theory of the structuralist semio- tician Michael Riffaterre as my main theoretical perspective complemented by the »I and it-relationship« and »I and you- relationship« outlined by the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber. I have concretized my study by interpretations of selected poems. The most innovative part of my presentation is a novel interpretation of the poem Romanesque Arches based on the presuppositions given above.

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