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Bob Dylan wins Nobel prize in litterature Back

The full story of Bob Dylan & The Prize 

What took them so long?
Some of us have been waiting for years for him to be awarded the Nobel prize. What took them so long? Did the Nobel Academy not consider a rockstar worthy to such an honor, while the lot of us have agreed that the man is a genius? Of course he is a genius!

But this is Bob Dylan and so nothing goes by the book.

October 2016
The Nobel prize academy

To begin with the beginning: in October 2016 the Nobel committee announces on their website that Bob Dylan is awarded the Nobel prize, the committee's motivation being: "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

Right! And for leaving me breathless and deeply moved time after time after time and time again.

October 13, 2016
The Guardian: Bob Dylan wins Nobel prize in litterature

The Guardian is early out with the news:

"For more than six decades he has remained a mythical force in music, his gravelly voice and poetic lyrics musing over war, heartbreak, betrayal, death and moral faithlessness in songs that brought beauty to life’s greatest tragedies."

"But Bob Dylan’s place as one of the world’s greatest artistic figures was elevated further on Thursday when he was named the surprise winner of the Nobel prize in literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition"."

"After the announcement, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, said it had "not been a difficult decision" and she hoped the academy would not be criticised for its choice."

Almost prophetically Sara Danius continues:

"We hoped the news would be received with joy, but you never know," she said, comparing the songs of the American songwriter to the works of Homer and Sappho." And she adds:

"We’re really giving it to Bob Dylan as a great poet – that’s the reason we awarded him the prize. He’s a great poet in the great English tradition, stretching from Milton and Blake onwards. And he’s a very interesting traditionalist, in a highly original way. Not just the written tradition, but also the oral one; not just high literature, but also low literature."

Also nobilities like Salman Rushdie are approving of the decision:

"The author Salman Rushdie told the Guardian he was delighted with Dylan’s win and said his lyrics had been "an inspiration to me all my life ever since I first heard a Dylan album at school”."

"The frontiers of literature keep widening, and it’s exciting that the Nobel prize recognises that," Rushdie said. "I intend to spend the day playing Mr Tambourine Man, Love Minus Zero/No Limit, Like a Rolling Stone, Idiot Wind, Jokerman, Tangled Up in Blue and It’s a Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”

Great songs. Those and a whole lot of other Dylan songs.

October 13, 2016
The Guardian: Why Bob Dylan deserves his Nobel literature win

And if anywone would doubt Dylan's right to the Nobel prize The Guardian is out defending the decision. Initially they note that:

"Some will argue against the award, as they argued against him in the long and infinitely tiresome Dylan v Keats controversy, and as others have contested the meaning and value of every phase and nuance of his output."

But The Guardian is also highlighting a few famous lines from Dylan's production to prove the value of Dylan's poetry:

"Just take your favourite Dylan line. Yours might be the ever timely "Where preachers preach of evil fates / Teachers teach that knowledge waits / Can lead to hundred-dollar plates / Goodness hides behind its gates / But even the president of the United States / Sometimes must have to stand naked", from It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) in 1965. Or the eternal "Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you're trying to be so quiet?" (Visions of Johanna, 1966) or the mysterious "Two riders were approaching / The wind began to howl" (All Along the Watchtower, 1968)."

It is furthermore accentuated that Dylan manages to make poetry out of daylidays, almost homespun philosophical expressions:

"[...] a simple line from Brownsville Girl [...] "Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content." This is not "literary", or poetic by his former standards." Richard Williams says. There is no "midnight’s broken toll" or "geometry of innocence". Dylan phrases it so perfectly in a single breath that the meaning is rendered starkly and with profound resonance. That’s what he does."

It's worth noting that Dylan has never been some highbrow intellectual.

"Similarly, he never wanted to tear down the walls of Tin Pan Alley. That was an inference drawn by others, useful in the early phase of his career, when he drew from what he had heard in the collection of antique songs on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music – the ballads and blues, the music of hard times – and somehow infused it all with the onrushing anti-authoritarian, anti-deferential spirit of his own era."

"As the Nobel citation correctly suggests, Dylan knitted himself – without anyone realising it, perhaps even him– into the warp and weft of American popular music. Borrowing wholesale from the past, reshuffling melodies, images, characters and attitudes, he helped assemble the components of a rapidly changing present."

October 14, 2016
The Guardian: Bob Dylan makes no mention of Nobel prize as he takes to the stage

The following night Dylan is on stage in Las Vegas without mentioning the award with a single word. Whether it was meant as a comment or not he concluded his set this way:

"As the audience chanted for more songs on Thursday night, Dylan gave just a brief encore, ending his set with a mournful yet playful cover of Frank Sinatra’s Why Try To Change Me Now."

Whatever that was supposed to mean.

October 20, 2016
The Guardian: Bob Dylan website acknowledges Nobel literature prize win after five-day wait

A few days go by without any reaction from the laureate. "Some have put his silence down to shyness, others have called him aloof and a few have said it is just plain bad manners. But, five days after Bob Dylan was given the Nobel prize for literature, the singer’s lack of comments on the subject may have been broken.

In a subtle update on Dylan’s website, a page promoting a new book of his lyrics now includes the declaration "winner of the Nobel prize in literature".

The Academy secretay, Sara Danius, makes numerous unsuccessful attempts to make Dylan comment on the case but Dylan himself is silent.

"I think he will show up," the secretary says. "If he doesn't want to come, he won't come. It will be a big party in any case and the honor belongs to him."

In 1964 Sartre refused the prize because "a writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution," but he was still listet as the winner.

"The fact that he has declined this distinction does not in the least modify the validity of the award," the Nobel committee said at the time.

October 21, 2016
The Guardian: Bob Dylan is not the first songwriter to win the Nobel prize for literature

The 1913 Nobel prize for literature was awarded to the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. His work, like Dylan’s, recreates tradition and crosses genres.

October 21, 2016
New York Times: Words Vanish on Dylan’s Website, and a Nobel Mystery Continues

The brief statement on Dylan's official website, "Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature," disappears without explanation.

"Mr. Dylan has played five concerts since the Nobel announcement, and fans have been monitoring his every move for signs of a reaction. In Las Vegas, he played a guitar, perhaps for the first time in four years. At Desert Trip in California, he played "Why Try to Change Me Now," the 1950s chestnut by Cy Coleman and Joseph A. McCarthy that is on Mr. Dylan’s recent album "Shadows in the Night" (although he has played the song more than 70 times on tour since last year). Do they mean anything? As with everything Dylan, it’s hard to guess."

October 21, 2016
The Guardian: Bob Dylan removes mention of Nobel prize from website

The disappearance of the statement from the website attracts a good deal of attention. But he has always detested being put on a formula.

The Guardian puts it this way: "Dylan [...] has always stepped away from attempts to corral him into being something he does not want to be."

Then again, maybe Dylan himself didn't know about the statement:

"Whether the latest twist in the Dylan-Nobel saga is the result of an administrative foul-up or a deliberate choice is unknown – stars’ websites are usually run with extremely limited input from their notional owners, and it’s entirely possible Dylan never knew either that his site had made reference to the prize or removed it. Though it is, of course, less likely that his manager, Jeff Rosen, would be unaware."

October 22, 2016
The Guardian: Bob Dylan criticised as 'impolite and arrogant' by Nobel academy member

Bob Dylan's silence is not well received by the Nobel Academy:

"The US singer-songwriter has not responded to repeated phone calls from the Swedish Academy, nor reacted in any way in public to the news. "It’s impolite and arrogant," said the academy member, Swedish writer Per Wastberg, in comments aired on SVT public television."

October 26, 2016
New York Times: The Meaning Of Bob Dylan's Silence

By Adam Kirsch

As Dylan maintains his silence, all sorts of speculation about why he has not responded, are in circulation. One theory is that a supposedly negative attitude towards American literature could be the reason:

"There is a good deal of poetic justice in this turn of events. For almost a quarter of a century, ever since Toni Morrison won the Nobel in 1993, the Nobel committee acted as if American literature did not exist — and now an American is acting as if the Nobel committee doesn’t exist. Giving the award to Mr. Dylan was an insult to all the great American novelists and poets who are frequently proposed as candidates for the prize. The all-but-explicit message was that American literature, as traditionally defined, was simply not good enough. This is an absurd notion, but one that the Swedes have embraced: In 2008, the Academy’s permanent secretary, Horace Engdahl, declared that American writers "don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature" and are limited by that "ignorance.""

But then again, that is not likely to be the reason:

"Still, it’s doubtful that Mr. Dylan intends his silence to be a defense of the honor of American literature. (He did, after all, accept the Pulitzer Prize for "lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.") No one knows what he intends — Mr. Dylan has always been hard to interpret, both as a person and as a lyricist, which is one reason people love him."

Also Dylan is compaired with Sartre, the famous existentialist who in 1964 refused the award:

"[...] the best way to understand his silence, and to praise it, is to go back to Sartre, and in particular to Sartre’s concept of "bad faith." Bad faith, Sartre explains in "Being and Nothingness," is the opposite of authenticity. Bad faith becomes possible because a human being cannot simply be what he or she is, in the way that an inkwell simply is an inkwell. Rather, because we are free, we must "make ourselves what we are."

"This way of thinking is what used to be called existentialism, and Mr. Dylan is one of its great products. Living like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone, is living in Sartrean good faith, and much of the strangeness of Mr. Dylan’s life can be understood as a desperate attempt to retain this freedom in the face of the terrific pressure of fame. In a profile in The New Yorker in that same year of 1964, Mr. Dylan was quoted as saying that he didn’t "want to write for people anymore" but rather wanted to "write from inside me.""

And further on:

"To be a Nobel laureate, however, is to allow "people" to define who one is, to become an object and a public figure rather than a free individual. The Nobel Prize is in fact the ultimate example of bad faith: A small group of Swedish critics pretend to be the voice of God."

But still:

"Mr. Dylan may yet accept the prize, but so far, his refusal to accept the authority of the Swedish Academy has been a wonderful demonstration of what real artistic and philosophical freedom looks like." The columnist Adam Kirsch concludes.

October 27, 2016
New York Times: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and the Nobel Mystery

Adam Kirsch's article has caused diverse reactions from the readers.

"I agree with Adam Kirsch that people ought to just let Bob Dylan take his sweet time in responding to being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Any great writer would want to respond with care and grace under such intense circumstances, especially weeks before an election, and Mr. Dylan deserves his space.
He certainly understands the weight and power of his own vocalizations. In fact, there has never been a Nobel recipient whose voice and verses are so deeply known by so many people. And Mr. Dylan knows that in light of the news, even more people are listening to him. He has already said quite a lot, and his voice and songs are permanently available to all."

Chris J. Cuomo

"Bob Dylan's silence after the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature may be existentialist, as Adam Kirsch argues. It strikes me more as a traditional gesture of rock 'n' roll, the culture by which Mr. Dylan has primarily defined himself as a public figure.
Rude? Hell, yes. Does he care, about that or a thousand other societal expectations? Hell, no."

Gavin McCormick

Not everybody are that understanding:

"Adam Kirsch applauds Bob Dylan’s nonresponsiveness to the Nobel committee as an assertion of his artistic freedom, in particular suggesting that Mr. Dylan is refusing to be defined as an artist by the Nobel committee’s expression of approval.
Yet isn’t Mr. Dylan compromising that very artistic integrity by doing IBM TV commercials, where, in return for money, he is essentially permitting IBM to publicly proclaim its endorsement of his artwork?"

Eric Bernstein

October 28, 2016
New York Times: Bob Dylan Speaks, at Last, on His Nobel

New York Times is one of the first to announce the news that Dylan is going to accept his Nobel prize:

"We finally have an answer. Bob Dylan will, indeed, accept his Nobel Prize in Literature — probably.
In his first comments on the award, made in an interview with The Telegraph, the British newspaper, Mr. Dylan was asked whether he would attend the Nobel ceremony in Sweden in December. His response was characteristically mysterious.
"Absolutely," Mr. Dylan said."If it’s at all possible.""

Somewhat out of context Dylan mentions that an exhibition in London of new paintings from his hand is on its way.

October 29, 2016
The Guardian: 'I was left speechless': Bob Dylan breaks two-week silence over Nobel prize

Bob Dylan was left speechless by the news that he was to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature, he has said, breaking more than two weeks of silence since the announcement.
Secretary Sara Danius quotes from a telephone conversation where Bob Dylan said:

"I appreciate the honour so much," adding: "The news about the Nobel prize left me speechless."But, in a call with Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Dylan said: "I appreciate the honour so much," adding: "The news about the Nobel prize left me speechless."

So all speculations have been shown to be in vain. Dylan is happy and so are we.

October 29, 2016
The Telegraph: Bob Dylan - I'll be at the Nobel Prize ceremony... if I can

"Isn’t that something...?" Bob Dylan isn’t exactly making a big deal out of being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. But at least the 1960's trailblazer is finally acknowledging his becoming the first musician to be granted admission to the world’s most elite literary club."

It's still an open question whether Dylan is going to attend the ceremony on December 10, 2016. But when asked directly, "... Dylan is all affability. Yes, he is planning to turn up to the awards ceremony in Stockholm. "Absolutely," he says. "If it’s at all possible." And as he talks, he starts to sound pretty pleased about becoming a Nobel laureate. "It’s hard to believe," he muses. [...] When he was first told, it was, Dylan confides, "amazing, incredible. Whoever dreams about something like that?""

Did I mention that the prize amounts to £ 750,000? That's a lot of money, even for a Bob Dylan. But when asked about his long silence, "Dylan sounds genuinely bemused by the whole ruckus. It is as if he can’t quite fathom where all the headlines have come from, that others have somehow been over-reacting."

October 30, 2016
Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan: 'The Nobel Prize Left Me Speechless'

Bob Dylan acknowledged his Nobel Prize for Literature win in a new interview published Friday where he said of the prestigious honor, "Amazing, incredible. Whoever dreams about something like that?"

Asked for his lack of response to the announcement and "the Swedish Academy's fruitless efforts to get in touch with the singer since the award was announced, Dylan quipped simply, "Well, I'm right here."

In a separate announcement Friday, the Nobel Foundation revealed that they did finally get in contact with Dylan about the prize. "The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless," Dylan told the Swedish Academy. "I appreciate the honor so much." Dylan added, "If I accept the prize? Of course."

The Academy secretary, Sara Danius, explains why Dylan is a worthy recipient even though the prize usually is reserved for authors and she draws long lines back in time and compares Dylan with old classic poets:

"If you look back, far back, 2,500 years or so, you discover Homer and Sappho, and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to, they were meant to be performed, often together with instruments, and it's the same way with Bob Dylan," Danius said in early October. "But we still read Homer and Sappho… and we enjoy it, and same thing with Bob Dylan. He can be read, and should be read."

October 30, 2016
CNN: Bob Dylan says he'll be at Nobel Prize ceremony, newspaper reports

CNN referring to The Telegraph confirms that Dylan is going to accept the award:

"Bob Dylan apparently isn't going to leave the Nobel Prize committee hanging. The singer-songwriter, whose tunes have spoken to the socially conscious for more than five decades, told a reporter for The Telegraph newspaper of the United Kingdom that he probably will show up at the award ceremony in December.
"Absolutely," he told The Telegraph. "If it's at all possible."

November 9, 2016
The Econimic Times: Even if Dylan visits Stockholm to pick award, he will not talk to the press

"Dylan has yet to confirm whether he will attend the Nobel awards ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall on December 10, but his staff have told the Swedish Academy that he will not hold any press conference or hold any interview with journalists, should he come to Sweden, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday."

"Dylan has promised to hold some form of lecture within six months of the awards ceremony, which will be followed by a lavish banquet at the Stockholm City Hall."

November 10, 2016
The Saint: Why Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize in literature has revitalised the award

"Dylan, through his sophisticated art delivered in a popular medium, mocks the concept of high and low art to a point where such a distinction no longer makes sense. Anyone who has watched the ‘Jokerman’ video will understand exactly what I mean."

"So why now? And what does this award mean for Dylan? It’s not like he needs any more recognition, he’s already a legend counting Grammys, Oscars, a place in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and many more distinctions. He’s also recognised by academia, as can be demonstrated by the number of scholarly works written about his work and the many classes offered by English departments in universities across the world on it. He even holds an honorary doctorate from the University of St Andrews – a fact that makes me even more proud to study here. As Leonard Cohen, another great songwriter and poet, put it, giving Dylan the award "is like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain.""

"It is true that the Nobel Prize shouldn’t mean that much to Dylan himself. It’s overrated anyway, and one of the institutions that have in the past perpetuated this false dichotomy between high and low art. Yet, this is exactly why this decision by the Swedish Academy matters. It seems that the times, they are a-changin’ for the Nobel Prize, and this is a historic moment. Literature, in the eyes of those who see the Nobel Prize as some sort of standard, has expanded its scope, and song, as the art form that gave birth to literature – Homer’s epic poems were, after all, originally sung accompanied by music – has finally been given the recognition it deserves. What better way to do that by awarding the greatest master of song?"

December 5, 2016
The Guardian: Bob Dylan to 'provide' speech for Nobel prize ceremony

"Bob Dylan’s on-again, off-again flirtation with the Nobel prize is back on – though he’s keeping his distance, with hand-holding but no kissing. The official Twitter feed of the Nobel prize announced on Monday morning that Dylan, this year’s laureate in literature, had provided a speech "which will be read at the Nobel banquet in Stockholm December 10"."

"Note that he will providing a speech, not that he will be reading a speech."

December 6, 2016
Berlingske Tidende (Danish newspaper): Nu vil Bob Dylan gerne sige tak for nobelprisen

"Efter lange spekulationer i medier og blandt fans, om hvorvidt Bob Dylan vil dukke op for at modtage sin nobelpris, står det nu fast, at den 75-årige sangskriver ikke har tænkt sig at være der i egen person. Til gengæld har han allerede leveret en takketale til begivenheden, fortæller nobelpriskomiteen i en officiel tweet."

"Ifølge tweetet har Bob Dylan, der officielt skal modtage nobelprisen i litteratur den 10. december, indleveret en tale som vil blive læst op under banketten af en stedfortræder, idet sangeren ikke selv vil være til stede."

"Bob Dylan har været meget fåmælt om sin nobelpris, og først fem dage efter offentliggørelsen af pristildelingen, stod der en note om prisen på sangerens hjemmeside, en note som dog blev fjernet kort efter. Senere blev rocklegenden kritiseret af et medlem af Det Svenske Akademi, Per Wästberg, der kaldte Bob Dylans attitude "for uhøflig og arrogant". Først efter to uger ringede Bob Dylan til akademiets sekretær, Sara Danius, og erklærede at han påskønnede æren.

""Nyheden gjorde mig mundlam," forklarede han."

"Den 16. november erklærede han, at han ikke ville være i stand til at deltage i ceremonien, på grund af "andre engagementer". Hvem der så oplæser Dylans takketale, vil blive afsløret på lørdag når prisen overrækkes."

December 7, 2016
Rolling Stone/Stephen King: Why Bob Dylan Deserves the Nobel Prize
Author discusses his favorite Dylan songs – and dismantles critics who say he doesn't deserve the honor

"I must have been 14 the first time I heard Bob Dylan. I was sitting in the back of a car going home from a movie. This is in rural Maine back when AM radio was big. There was a guy on WBZ radio out of Boston and he had a show called The Night Express and played a lot of off-the-wall stuff. He played "Subterranean Homesick Blues." Hearing it was like being electrified. It was like this pressurized dump of lyrics and images."

"The line that knocked me out was "The pump don't work since the vandals took the handle." I mean, he just nailed it. The stuff that moved me wasn't the folk stuff that had stories, like "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" or "Blowin' in the Wind" or "Masters of War." But "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was like poetry in the sense that it didn't have a narrative line. What it did was peel that away and leave you with pure emotion. It lifted you up."

"I've played "Desolation Row" over and over and over again. I've heard people say, "Well, it's third-rate T.S. Eliot." Sorry, it's its own thing. I can think of a lot of artists, like the Kinks and Van Morrison, where I like their early stuff, but then it peters off into something that feels repetitive or self-imitative. Dylan never made me feel that way. The stuff he's doing now, like the Christmas album and the Frank Sinatra stuff, I'm like, "OK, you've earned it. You can be a little indulgent if you want.""

"My kids listen to Dylan, and so do my grandkids. That's three generations. That's real longevity and quality. Most people in pop music are like moths around a bug light; they circle for a while and then there's a bright flash and they're gone. Not Dylan."

December 10, 2016
New York Times: Bob Dylan Sends Warm Words but Skips Nobel Prize Ceremonies
"If people in the literary world groan, one must remind them that the gods don’t write, they dance and they sing."

For Bob Dylan, the nagging question of whether his songs qualify as literature was settled for good on Saturday at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm — and his presence was not required to make the case.

As the always-slippery folk singer forewarned, he was not there to receive the 2016 prize in literature, but he sent a warm, humble statement accepting the honor, which was read by Azita Raji, the American ambassador to Sweden, at an evening banquet in Stockholm.

Invoking William Shakespeare, whom Mr. Dylan imagined to have been too consumed with practical matters — “How should this be staged?” “Where am I going to get a human skull?” — to bother with whether what he was doing was literature, Mr. Dylan wrote: “I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life’s mundane matters. ‘Who are the best musicians for these songs?’ ‘Am I recording in the right studio?’ ‘Is this song in the right key?’ Some things never change, even in 400 years.

"Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, ‘Are my songs literature?’" Mr. Dylan, 75, concluded. “So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.”

"In a speech in front of about 1,500 guests, including the Swedish royal family, Horace Engdahl, a member of the Nobel Committee, called Mr. Dylan “a singer worthy of a place beside the Greek bards, beside Ovid, beside the Romantic visionaries, beside the kings and queens of the blues, beside the forgotten masters of brilliant standards."

"If people in the literary world groan," Mr. Engdahl added, "one must remind them that the gods don’t write, they dance and they sing."

December 10, 2016
A trancendent Patti Smith accepts Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize

"In the months leading up to the ceremony, there was copious chatter about the recipient of this year’s award for literature, the American musician Bob Dylan. Did Dylan deserve it? Are his songs in fact a kind of literature? Are any songs a kind of literature? Can a lyric be successfully untangled from a melody? Can a piece of music be distilled into its constituent parts? At the beginning of “Sympathy for the Devil,” when Mick Jagger belches that first, frantic “Yow!”—is that language? What about Blind Willie Johnson, mumbling his way through “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground”—his woeful, gravid moaning, is that poetry? Are those words? Is what Dylan has done fundamentally comparable to what William Faulkner or Doris Lessing or V. S. Naipaul has done? Who knows?"

"Following the announcement, Dylan refused to publicly acknowledge receipt of the prize—a continuation, perhaps, of his willfully and delightfully obtuse approach to fame and accolades. Maybe it was a meta-commentary on the absurdity of institutional affirmations of art. It felt consistent, at least, with Dylan’s own self-mythologizing. And it’s that narrative, after all—the one Dylan has written for himself—that’s perhaps literature in the truest sense. He is his most dynamic creation."

"The measured Swedish commentator who was delivering a polite play-by-play of the proceedings introduced the punk-rock singer Patti Smith by saying, “Soon we will hear music of a different kind. Something that a lot of people probably have heard before.” Any haughtiness was surely inadvertent, but there it was: prepare yourselves for a shift toward the popular. Every yahoo on the street knows this one!"

"Smith was accompanied by the Philharmonic performing a spare and gentle arrangement of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” orchestrated by Hans Ek, a Swedish conductor. She looked so striking: elegant and calm in a navy blazer and a white collared shirt, her long, silver hair hanging in loose waves, hugging her cheekbones. I started crying almost immediately. She forgot the words to the second verse—or at least became too overwhelmed to voice them—and asked to begin the section again. I cried more. “I’m sorry, I’m so nervous,” Smith admitted. The orchestra obliged."

"Dylan wrote the song in the summer of 1962, for his second album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” He has said it was inspired, structurally, by seventeenth-century balladry: a question is posed, and answers stack up, though none are particularly comforting."

"That Dylan ultimately accepted the Nobel with a folk song (and this specific folk song, performed by a surrogate, a peer) seemed to communicate something significant about how and what he considers his own work (musical, chiefly), and the fluid, unsteady nature of balladry itself—both the ways in which old songs are fairly reclaimed by new performers, and how their meanings change with time. Before Smith took the stage, Horace Engdahl, a literary historian and critic, dismissed any controversy over Dylan’s win, saying the decision “seemed daring only beforehand, and already seems obvious.” He spoke of Dylan’s “sweet nothings and cruel jokes,” and his capacity for fusing “the languages of the streets and the Bible.” In the past, he reminded us, all poetry was song"

"Has Dylan conferred great benefit to mankind? Listening to Smith sing his song—and watching as audience members, dressed in their finest, wiped their eyes, blindly reached for each other, seemed unable to exhale—the answer felt obvious. The answer was on their faces."

December 10, 2016
The Nobel Foundation: Award Ceremony Speech
Presentation Speech by Professor Horace Engdahl, Member of the Swedish Academy, Member of the Nobel Committee for Literature, 10 December 2016.

"Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

What brings about the great shifts in the world of literature? Often it is when someone seizes upon a simple, overlooked form, discounted as art in the higher sense, and makes it mutate. Thus, at one point, emerged the modern novel from anecdote and letter, thus arose drama in a new age from high jinx on planks placed on barrels in a marketplace, thus songs in the vernacular dethroned learned Latin poetry, thus too did La Fontaine take animal fables and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales from the nursery to Parnassian heights. Each time this occurs, our idea of literature changes.

In itself, it ought not to be a sensation that a singer/songwriter now stands recipient of the literary Nobel Prize. In a distant past, all poetry was sung or tunefully recited, poets were rhapsodes, bards, troubadours; 'lyrics' comes from 'lyre'. But what Bob Dylan did was not to return to the Greeks or the Provençals. Instead, he dedicated himself body and soul to 20th century American popular music, the kind played on radio stations and gramophone records for ordinary people, white and black: protest songs, country, blues, early rock, gospel, mainstream music. He listened day and night, testing the stuff on his instruments, trying to learn. But when he started to write similar songs, they came out differently. In his hands, the material changed. From what he discovered in heirloom and scrap, in banal rhyme and quick wit, in curses and pious prayers, sweet nothings and crude jokes, he panned poetry gold, whether on purpose or by accident is irrelevant; all creativity begins in imitation.

Even after fifty years of uninterrupted exposure, we are yet to absorb music's equivalent of the fable's Flying Dutchman. He makes good rhymes, said a critic, explaining greatness. And it is true. His rhyming is an alchemical substance that dissolves contexts to create new ones, scarcely containable by the human brain. It was a shock. With the public expecting poppy folk songs, there stood a young man with a guitar, fusing the languages of the street and the bible into a compound that would have made the end of the world seem a superfluous replay. At the same time, he sang of love with a power of conviction everyone wants to own. All of a sudden, much of the bookish poetry in our world felt anaemic, and the routine song lyrics his colleagues continued to write were like old-fashioned gunpowder following the invention of dynamite. Soon, people stopped comparing him to Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams and turned instead to Blake, Rimbaud, Whitman, Shakespeare.

In the most unlikely setting of all - the commercial gramophone record - he gave back to the language of poetry its elevated style, lost since the Romantics. Not to sing of eternities, but to speak of what was happening around us. As if the oracle of Delphi were reading the evening news.

Recognising that revolution by awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize was a decision that seemed daring only beforehand and already seems obvious. But does he get the prize for upsetting the system of literature? Not really. There is a simpler explanation, one that we share with all those who stand with beating hearts in front of the stage at one of the venues on his never-ending tour, waiting for that magical voice. Chamfort made the observation that when a master such as La Fontaine appears, the hierarchy of genres - the estimation of what is great and small, high and low in literature - is nullified. “What matter the rank of a work when its beauty is of the highest rank?" he wrote. That is the straight answer to the question of how Bob Dylan belongs in literature: as the beauty of his songs is of the highest rank.

By means of his oeuvre, Bob Dylan has changed our idea of what poetry can be and how it can work. He is a singer worthy of a place beside the Greeks' ?οιδ?ι, beside Ovid, beside the Romantic visionaries, beside the kings and queens of the Blues, beside the forgotten masters of brilliant standards. If people in the literary world groan, one must remind them that the gods don't write, they dance and they sing. The good wishes of the Swedish Academy follow Mr. Dylan on his way to coming bandstands."

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2016

December 10, 2016
The Nobel Foundation: Banquet speech by Bob Dylan given by the United States Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji, at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 2016.

"Good evening, everyone. I extend my warmest greetings to the members of the Swedish Academy and to all of the other distinguished guests in attendance tonight.

I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize. Being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is something I never could have imagined or seen coming. From an early age, I've been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction: Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway. These giants of literature whose works are taught in the schoolroom, housed in libraries around the world and spoken of in reverent tones have always made a deep impression. That I now join the names on such a list is truly beyond words.

I don't know if these men and women ever thought of the Nobel honor for themselves, but I suppose that anyone writing a book, or a poem, or a play anywhere in the world might harbor that secret dream deep down inside. It's probably buried so deep that they don't even know it's there.

If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon. In fact, during the year I was born and for a few years after, there wasn't anyone in the world who was considered good enough to win this Nobel Prize. So, I recognize that I am in very rare company, to say the least.

I was out on the road when I received this surprising news, and it took me more than a few minutes to properly process it. I began to think about William Shakespeare, the great literary figure. I would reckon he thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn't have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read. When he was writing Hamlet, I'm sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: "Who're the right actors for these roles?" "How should this be staged?" "Do I really want to set this in Denmark?" His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. "Is the financing in place?" "Are there enough good seats for my patrons?" "Where am I going to get a human skull?" I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare's mind was the question "Is this literature?"

When I started writing songs as a teenager, and even as I started to achieve some renown for my abilities, my aspirations for these songs only went so far. I thought they could be heard in coffee houses or bars, maybe later in places like Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium. If I was really dreaming big, maybe I could imagine getting to make a record and then hearing my songs on the radio. That was really the big prize in my mind. Making records and hearing your songs on the radio meant that you were reaching a big audience and that you might get to keep doing what you had set out to do.

Well, I've been doing what I set out to do for a long time, now. I've made dozens of records and played thousands of concerts all around the world. But it's my songs that are at the vital center of almost everything I do. They seemed to have found a place in the lives of many people throughout many different cultures and I'm grateful for that.

But there's one thing I must say. As a performer I've played for 50,000 people and I've played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried. The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me.

But, like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life's mundane matters. "Who are the best musicians for these songs?" "Am I recording in the right studio?" "Is this song in the right key?" Some things never change, even in 400 years.

Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, "Are my songs literature?"

So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.

My best wishes to you all,

Bob Dylan"

© The Nobel Foundation 2016.
General permission is granted for immediate publication in editorial contexts, in print or online, in any language within two weeks of December 10, 2016. Thereafter, any publication requires the consent of the Nobel Foundation. On all publications in full or in major parts the above copyright notice must be applied.

December 11, 2016
The Guardian: Bob Dylan Nobel prize speech: this is 'truly beyond words'

"Bob Dylan admitted he was stunned and surprised when he was told he had won a Nobel prize because he had never stopped to consider whether his songs were literature."

"Dylan, whose speech was read out by the US ambassador to Sweden at the annual awards dinner, said the prize was “something I never could have imagined or seen coming"."

"He said from an early age he had read and absorbed the works of past winners and giants of literature such as Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus and Hemingway. But said it was “truly beyond words” that he was joining those names on the winners list. “If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel prize, I would have to think that I’d have about the same odds as standing on the moon,” he wrote."

"Formally presenting the award Horace Engdahl, a Swedish literary critic and member of the Swedish academy behind the prize, responded to international criticism of the choice of a popular lyricist as recipient. In defence of the decision, Engdahl said that when Dylan’s songs were heard first in the 1960s: "All of a sudden, much of the bookish poetry in our world felt anaemic.""

"The academy’s choice of Dylan, Engdahl added, speaking in Swedish, “seemed daring only beforehand and already seems obvious"."

December 11, 2016
Patti Smith sings at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, music video

I do recommend that you follow the links to the relevant articles to read the full text and to have a look at the the imagery displayedin the articles.


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