Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Bob Dylan? Nobel Prize? Literature?

You’ve probably heard that Dylan won the Nobel for Literature.

Bob Dylan - azkena rock festival 2010

Alberto Cabello from Vitoria Gasteiz ~ Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

What do you think—is he a “poet” or just a “lyricist”?

Speaking of his songs, here are Dylan’s lyrics from 1962 to 2016

And, here are a few snippets of the coverage of his Nobel.

From The Washington PostSomething is happening: Bob Dylan wins Nobel in literature:

“The startling announcement out of Stockholm was met with both euphoria and dismay.”

“He is the most influential songwriter of his time, who brought a new depth, range and complexity to rock lyrics and freed Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell and countless other artists to break out from the once-narrow boundaries of love and dance songs.”

From The GuardianNobel prize in literature won by Bob Dylan – as it happened:

> music journalist Everett True: “Bob Dylan winning a Nobel Prize for Literature pays lip service to populism, the same way the establishment’s championing of Bob Dylan from the 1960s onwards has always paid lip service to populism while simultaneously serving to put the rest of us Great Unwashed firmly in our place, a slap across the face.”

> news wire service AFP: “Dylan’s name has often been mentioned over the past few years but we always thought it was a joke,” said the French novelist Pierre Assouline, who could not hide his fury at the Nobel committee.

“Their decision is contemptuous of writers,” he told AFP. “I like Dylan but where is the (literary) work? I think the Swedish Academy have made themselves look ridiculous.”

From Israel’s Haaretz—Bob Dylan’s Genius Doesn’t Lie in His Writing, Nobel Prize or Not:

“There’s no doubt Bob Dylan deserves the highest form of recognition, but awarding him literature’s most prestigious award threatens to deepen an existing distortion of his work: That he is a great writer who is also a singer.”

And, back to The Guardian for today—Nobel panel gives up knockin’ on Dylan’s door:

“The Swedish Academy says it has given up trying to reach Bob Dylan, days after it awarded him the Nobel prize in literature.

“’Right now we are doing nothing. I have called and sent emails to his closest collaborator and received very friendly replies. For now, that is certainly enough’, the academy’s permanent secretary, Sara Danius, told state radio SR on Monday.

“So far the American troubadour has responded with silence since he won the prize on Thursday.”

Finally, from QuartzTagore, not Dylan: The first lyricist to win the Nobel Prize for literature was actually Indian:

“…as Bob Dylan might croon, ‘The Times, they are mistaken.’

“A Bengali literary giant, who probably wrote more songs than him, preceded Dylan’s win by over a century. Rabindranath Tagore, a wildly talented Indian poet, painter, and musician, took the prize in 1913.

“The first musician (and first non-European) to win the Nobel Prize for literature, Tagore possessed an artistry—and lasting influence—that mirrored Dylan’s.”


What’s your take on all this?

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2 responses to “Bob Dylan? Nobel Prize? Literature?

  1. Jane Watson October 18, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Thanks for providing such a wide range of responses to this event :-) I have no problem with acknowledging that Bob is a great poet who changed the face of World music and the World consciousness. Poets have always been singers,”… I sing of warfare and a man at war …” Virgil’s Aeneid begins…It’s just that in modern times in the Western world they have tended to publish on paper rather than gather in the king’s court or on the roadside to strum their lute. It’s all about moving and changing with the times ( Bob wrote a song about that too:-) . Great poets move people and push boundaries. I think that Bob’s genius does lie with his writing and he pushed boundaries in his choice of music to accompany it. What I find strange is that some comments seem to forget this bardic tradition as though modern Western writers recently sprung, fully formed, from the earth with no tradition. To say that “Their decision is contemptuous of writers,” reveals to me a lack of knowledge of what a writer is.


  2. Alexander M Zoltai October 21, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    I must agree with you, Jane…

    On all counts…

    And, thanks for the Virgil ;-)


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