widenews desk: The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
Speaking to reporters after the announcement, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Sara Danius said she “hoped” the Academy would not be criticised for its choice.
“The times they are a’changing, perhaps”, she said, comparing the songs of the American songwriter, who had yet to be informed of his win, to the works of Homer and Sappho.
“Of course he deserves it – he’s got it,” she said. “He’s a great poet – a great poet in the English speaking tradition. For 54 years he’s been at it, reinventing himself constantly, creating a new identity.”
The winner of the Nobel prize for literature is chosen by the 18 members of the Swedish Academy, who are looking for “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”, according to Alfred Nobel’s will. The award itself admits on its website that “Alfred Nobel’s prescriptions for the literature prize were quite vague”, adding that “in fact, the history of the literature prize appears as a series of attempts to interpret an imprecisely worded will”.
Danius advised those unfamiliar with the work of Dylan to start with the 1966 album Blonde on Blonde. “It’s an extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming, putting together refrains, and his pictorial way of thinking,” she said. When she was young, she admitted, she was “not really” a Dylan fan, preferring the works of David Bowie. “Perhaps it’s a question of my generation – today I’m a fan of Bob Dylan,” she said.
Dylan becomes the first American to win the Nobel prize for literature since Toni Morrison took the prize in 1993. His triumph follows comments in 2008 from Horace Engdahl, then permanent secretary of the Nobel prize jury, that “the US is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature … That ignorance is restraining.”