Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bob Dylan, 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature Winner

"The winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced in Stockholm in early October. The London betting houses have Haruki Murakami (5/1), Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (7/1) and Philip Roth (8/1) as the favorites—the only contenders with single-digit odds. Bob Dylan is listed at 50/1, behind such authors as Joyce Carol Oates and Amos Oz, but even with the likes of Thomas Pynchon and Milan Kundera and ahead of Tom Stoppard, Cormac McCarthy and Salman Rushdie. Dylan has had better odds in the past and may be slipping."
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Bob Dylan is a notoriously reticent man. As our own coverage of Desert Trip can attest, during his entire 90-minute set, he never said a word to the audience. And despite doing multiple shows since it was announced that he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, Dylan hasn’t responded to it publicly.

As it turns out, he hasn’t responded privately, either.

According to The Guardian, the Swedish Academy, the body responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize, hasn’t heard from Dylan at all, despite multiple emails and calls to the elusive star. The secretary for the Academy, Sara Danius, said they’ve stopped trying to contact Dylan directly: “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.”

So what does that mean for the ceremony on Dec. 10? Danius said, “I am not at all worried. I think he will show up.” Typically, recipients come to the ceremony to be given the award by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and to deliver a speech, but Dylan’s not known for being “typical.” The Academy doesn’t seem too hung up about it, if Dylan is in fact ghosting them. Danius said, “If he doesn’t want to come, he won’t come. It will be a big party in any case and the honour belongs to him.”

The Nobel Prize has often been given to writers who transformed their literary genre so thoroughly that their influence on other writers is almost as important as the original work. William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez won for transforming the novel (though James Joyce was snubbed), and T.S. Eliot for transforming poetry (though Allen Ginsberg was snubbed). But it’s hard to think of a writer who has revolutionized a genre as completely as Dylan has the song lyric.

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The Nobel’s nominating body, the Swedish Academy, recently gave up on trying to contact Dylan, with one member of the committee even characterizing Dylan’s silence as “impolite and arrogant.” After mention of the award was added to, then swiftly removed from Dylan’s website, it almost seemed as if the 75-year-old musician was actively avoiding the accolade.

But in a new interview with The Telegraph’s Edna Gunderson, Dylan finally broke his silence, describing his initial impression of the Nobel win as “amazing, incredible. Whoever dreams about something like that?” and adding that “It’s hard to believe.” When asked if he would attend the award ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10, Dylan replied, “Absolutely. If it’s at all possible.”

Per a Nobel Foundation press release, Dylan also called the Swedish Academy to formally accept the award: “The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless”, he told Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy. “I appreciate the honor so much.”

When asked by Gunderson to explain why he had not been in touch with the Academy, Dylan enigmatically replied, “Well, I’m right here,” but did not explain further, which is just about right. We can only expect so much clarity from the infamously reticent Dylan.

In speaking with Dylan, Gunderson also brought up comments made by Danius, who likened Dylan’s works to those of the ancient Greeks:
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. 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.

“I suppose so, in some way,” Dylan hesitantly assented. “Some [of my own] songs—Blind Willie, The Ballad of Hollis Brown, Joey, A Hard Rain, Hurricane, and some others—definitely are Homeric in value.” “The academics, they ought to know,” he went on to say. “I’m not really qualified. I don’t have any opinion.”

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