In a first, a songwriter has been awarded Nobel Prize for Literature, and that is none other than the great Bob Dylan. Regarded as the voice of a generation for his influential songs from the 1960s onwards, the decision — that gave a singer-songwriter one of the world’s most prestigious cultural awards — has come as a surprise to many. His songs such as ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, ‘Masters of War’, ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’, ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ and ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ captured a spirit of rebellion, dissent and independence.
“Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound,” the Swedish Academy said on Thursday, when it awarded the 8 million Swedish crown ($930,000) prize. He has been awarded the prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
More than 50 years on, Dylan is still writing songs and is often on tour. “He is probably the greatest living poet,” Swedish Academy member Per Wastberg said.
As soon as the announcement was made, social media sites such as Twitter erupted with reactions — ranging from euphoria to cynicism. Novelist Hari Kunzru tweeted, “This feels like the lamest Nobel win since they gave it to Obama for not being Bush”, quickly following it up with “I saw you in Stockholm in 1966 and it totally changed my life, we were wondering if at the ceremony you could sing something my favorite”, while publisher Jason Pinter said, “If Bob Dylan can win the Nobel Prize for literature then I think @StephenKing should get elected to the Rock N’ Roll hall of fame.”
Media man Pritish Nandy tweeted a congratulatory, “Nothing pleases me more than the Nobel for Lit going to Bob Dylan. Some of the world’s greatest songwriters have also been its finest poets,” and so did columnist Shobhaa De, “Bob Dylan!!!! What an inspired choice!!! Nobel for Literature – wow! Songs and songwriters finally get their due!”
Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Nobel Academy, told a news conference there was “great unity” in the panel’s decision to give Dylan the prize. “If you look far back, 5000 years, you discover Homer and Sappho. They wrote poetic texts which were meant to be performed, and it’s the same way for Bob Dylan. We still read Homer and Sappho, and we enjoy it,” she added.
Literature was the last of this year’s Nobel prizes to be awarded. The prize is named after dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.