Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, at his Stockholm home, in March 2011.

Story highlights

NEW: "I can't do anything but cheer!" Tomas Transtromer's spokeswoman says

NEW: The award has gone to obscure Europeans three of the past four years

Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa received the literature award last year

CNN  — 

Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer won the Nobel Prize in literature, the Swedish academy that announces the annual award said Thursday.

The poet beat out bookies’ favorites Bob Dylan and Haruki Murakami.

“I can’t do anything but cheer! Everyone here is just so happy,” said Transtromer’s spokeswoman Anna Tillgren. She said she had not been able to speak to the poet about his award yet.

The academy said it gave the award to Transtromer “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.”

The Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa won the award last year. He is known for the novels “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter,” “The Green House,” “Captain Pantoja and the Special Service” and “The Storyteller.”

But the academy has had a tendency to pick obscure European writers over the past several years.

The Literature prize went to Romanian-born German writer Herta Muller in 2009, and to the French poet Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio the year before that.

Until the Le Clezio award in 2008, the prize usually went to writers with a recognized worldwide reputation, such as British playwright Harold Pinter in 2005, Colombian magical realist Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1982, and American novelist Toni Morrison in 1993 – the last American to win it to date.

Transtromer, 80, won a lifetime award from the prestigious Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry in 2007, his website says.

Since 1901, the committee has handed out the Nobel Prize in literature 103 times. The youngest recipient was Rudyard Kipling, the author of the “Jungle Book.” Kipling won it at age 42 in 1907.

The oldest winner was Doris Lessing who was 88 when was named in 2007.

On Wednesday, the prize in chemistry was awarded to Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman.

Shechtman is a professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and is known for his discovery of quasicrystals.

On Tuesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences named Saul Perlmutter of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley; Brian P. Schmidt of Australian National University and Adam G. Riess of Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute, the winners of the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics. They made the discovery that our universe apparently is expanding at an accelerating rate some 14 billion years after the Big Bang.

The Nobel committee on Monday named Ralph Steinman, a biologist with Rockefeller University, and scientists Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann, the winners of the 2011 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

This week, the committee also will announce the prize for peace. The prize in economics will be announced Monday.