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Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

dylan

Singer songwriter, Bob Dylan was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature. The Swedish Academy stated that Dylan won the prize for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Dylan is the first American to win the prize since 1993 when it went to novelist Toni Morrison.

While the prize has gone to a range of stylistically diverse writers, the announcement was a surprise to many in the literary community since Dylan’s work doesn’t fit traditional literary canons generally recognized by the award. Past winners include Svetlana Alexievich (2015), Patrick Modiano (2014), Alice Munro (2013), Mo Yan (2012), Tomas Transtromer (2011), Mario Vargas Llosa (2010), Herta Muller (2009), Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio (2008), Doris Lessing (2007), and Orhan Pamuk (2006).

I do love Dylan and think he’s a brilliant songwriter, but I can’t deny that I was surprised by the decision. I’m not entirely convinced that Dylan’s body of work can compare to the likes of some of the favored names who were mentioned as candidates this year — authors like Don DeLillo, Murakami, Ngugi wa, Ismail Kadare, or Javier Marias. Dylan is the first songwriter to be awarded the Nobel Prize. However, it’s an interesting decision and one that will likely lead to some interesting discussion about what constitutes literature. Many congratulations to Mr. Dylan.

Dylan is trending on twitter. Here are a few reactions:

What do you think? Does Dylan deserve to win? Why or why not?

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Certainly surprising.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 13, 2016
  2. Tracy S #

    I’m still trying to reconcile this in my mind. Perhaps there should be a Nobel Prize for music? And: why not Paul McCartney?
    Yet, Dylan’s poetry has stood out as a vehicle for change. I still need to think about this.

    Liked by 2 people

    October 13, 2016
    • “Yet, Dylan’s poetry has stood out as a vehicle for change” absolutely agree with you there. I have very mixed feelings about it.

      Like

      October 13, 2016
      • Tracy S #

        A few good things about this: I already own,love, and can recite (with bad singing) a large part of his body of work, and my nonreader husband can actually say he knows the name of at least one Nobel Prize for Literature Laureate!

        Liked by 1 person

        October 14, 2016
  3. Mark DiSalvo #

    Dylan is our society’s Shakespeare. Both wrote poetry to be performed for the ear. Bob set it to music, Will set it on the stage. Both had true generational influence. It is a deserved recognition. Good for the Nobel Committee…the times they are a changin’.

    Liked by 2 people

    October 13, 2016
    • interesting analogy between Shakespeare and Dylan. I agree with you in that he deserves recognition (which he has gotten in the musical arena – Rock and Roll hall of fame, numerous Grammys, Academy Award, Golden Globe, National Medal of Arts, and many more). I’m just not entirely convinced whether he need the added recognition of a Nobel Prize for literature when there are so many other deserving genius authors who have made larger impacts (in my opinion) to literature.

      Like

      October 13, 2016
  4. I’m not that surprised. The Nobel panel has always made unpopular choices.
    Tolstoy, Chekhov, Borges, or Faust didn’t win the Nobel because of a myriad of reasons, though they were among the best of their generations. Instead, some lesser known authors tend to always win the prize, adding to the fact that Nobel panel was biased as hell in the past: Harry Martinson and Eyvind Johnson (two Swedes!) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the same year – 1974. That year Gunnar Myrdal, another Swede, also won the prize for Economics. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    October 13, 2016
    • They have made some interesting decisions although not always unpopular choices (Garcia Marquez, Coetzee, etc). But I agree that they have overlooked some major authors. It’s certainly an interesting choice.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 13, 2016
      • Yes,of course.
        Garcia Marquez, Munro, Coetzee, and Morrison are all big names that won the prize.

        But still… most of the time the panel will choose somebody lesser known over established names.

        Look at the past 3 years: authors we’ve hardly heard of won the prize while Ursula LeGuin, Milan Kundera, Phillip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Salman Rushdie and other great authors are consistently overlooked.

        The award doesn’t mean much when you realise there are factors, other than literary ones, that play a great role in deciding who is going to win. It’s a Swedish prize after all.

        Liked by 2 people

        October 14, 2016
  5. I found this baffling, but I’ve never really liked Bob Dylan, so I guess I don’t know his music well enough to have an informed opinion. It’s a difficult choice for me to wrap my head around.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 13, 2016
    • I do love Dylan but it’s a hard choice for me to wrap my head around too.

      Like

      October 13, 2016
  6. I feel very conflicted. I love Bob Dylan and think he is an amazing songwriter. However, I don’t necessarily agree with him winning the prize. Perhaps I’m being too rigid about categories since I have a hard time conceptualizing his songwriting as literature. To me his lyrics and music go together hand in hand and shouldn’t be separated because they lose some of their power when separated. As such, I think Dylan should be recognized but as a musical genius (encompassing both music and lyrics) rather than as a literary figure. While I agree with people like Mark (above) who cite his intergenerational influence and his cultural influence but I don’t think his songs have quite the literary value that are seen in other poets who have won (Pablo Neruda, Yeats, Tagore, Muller, etc.

    So I believe Dylan deserves accolades and recognition, but I am not convinced that should be in the form of a Nobel for literature.

    Liked by 2 people

    October 13, 2016
  7. A very odd choice which raises the whole question of what is literature. apparently it now includes lyrics on the basis they equate to poetry. Hmm, yes but they wouldn’t work without the music whereas poetry needs no decoration to work

    Liked by 2 people

    October 14, 2016
  8. I think it’s great that songwriting has been recognised as a literary form. Most of the music I truly love is strong lyrically. As Mark DiSalvo said above, there are poetic traditions where the words are composed to be heard and Bob Dylan is in that tradition. I don’t like everything Dylan has done and I don’t listen to him regularly, but he is important in music history because of that tradition of writing poetry to be heard. I think we get hung up on literature being something written in a book.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 14, 2016

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