Sweden's most famous living poet Tomas Transtromer won the Nobel prize for literature on Thursday, more than 20 years after a stroke severely limited his speech and movement, but not the power of his writing.

The Swedish Academy gave the award to a Swede for the first time in more than 30 years, saying it chose Transtromer because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.

I would like to say that he is one of the most foremost poets in the world today, said Peter Englund, permanent secretary at the Swedish Academy after the announcement of the prize, which comes with 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.45 million).

He said the poet had taken the news in his stride.

I think he was surprised, astonished, Englund told Swedish television. He sat relaxing and listening to music. But he said it was very good.

Transtromer had a stroke in 1990, limiting his speech and movement down his right side. A keen pianist, he still plays with his left hand.

Englund said Transtromer's work evoked strong emotions with an economy of expression in deftly constructed poems.

It is visionary poetry, said Neil Astley, founding editor at Transtromer's British publishers, Bloodaxe Books.

He described the works as being full of psychological insight and metaphysical interpretation of the world.

Transtromer has been nominated for the prize every year since 1993. The prize last went to Sweden in 1974, when it was shared by Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson. The fact that they were both members of the academy made the decision controversial.

Transtromer was born in Stockholm on April 15, 1931 to a schoolteacher mother and a journalist father.

His 1954 work, 17 poems, was one of the most widely acclaimed literary debuts of the decade and, after gaining a degree in psychology he divided his time between writing and work as a psychologist.

As well as being popular in Sweden, his collections have been translated into more than 50 languages.

While difficult to pin down, American poet Robert Hass once said of the Swede's work:

Tomas's poetry gave a piercing sense of what it's like to be an ordinary person going about their life at the moment when that life goes off the tracks.

The Academy said his works had been characterized by economy, concreteness and poignant metaphors.

His latest collections, The Sorrow Gondola and The Great Enigma, had shifted toward an even smaller format and a higher degree of concentration, the Academy added.