Yesterday, October 6, the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2011 was awarded to the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. “ [B]ecause, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality, said the press release from the Swedish Academy.
Wrote Teju Cole in The New Yorker, also yesterday:
The images with which Tranströmer charges his poems bring to mind the concept of “acheiropoieta,” “making without hands”; in Byzantine art, acheiropoeitic images were those believed to have come miraculously into being without a painter’s intervention. The Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Veronica are the most famous examples. These were images registered by direct contact, and they were usually images of the Holy Face of Christ. (Albrecht Dürer, in his immodest way, was alluding to such images when he painted his deliriously detailed full-frontal self-portrait of 1500.) I feel Tranströmer’s use of imagery is like this, and like contact printing, in which a photograph is made directly from a film negative or film positive. There is little elaborate construction evident; rather, the sense is of the sudden arrival of what was already there . . .
. . .
Direct contact? Like contact printing? Not the image on the shroud, certainly. But “the sense is of the sudden arrival of what was already there,” does perhaps capture the very idea of ancient acheiropoieta belief. And perhaps modern thinking, if perchance the image of Christ is miraculous.